Saturday 24 January 2015

£50 February Grocery Challenge

With February looming, I have been thinking a lot about my "£50 February" grocery challenge.  When I first discussed it with DH in December, he thought it'd be easy.  "We only spent that at Tesco last month," was his response.  While strictly true, however, shopping at Tesco is only one part of our grocery shopping:  we buy most of our veggies at the farm shop in Osterley Park; dried beans, rice and spices from Wing-Yip; coffee, salmon, cheddar, cans of chopped tomatoes and tuna from Costco; meat from the butcher during 4-6 monthly visits; and a few odd bits-n-pieces from Asda (mushrooms/cooking bacon) and Lidl (whatever is on offer).   

Here's the nub of the problem: we shop to restock the larder/freezer/fridge; we don't shop to fulfil a week's menu.  We buy in bulk and have a well stocked larder and freezer.  How do we account for that? Since most British households don't shop that way, how do you level the playing field?

After a lot of thought, I've come up with the following rules:-

1) Whatever is already in the fridge on 1st February is "free".  After all, very few people start a month with a completely empty fridge.

2) Ditto the spices, tea, coffee, sugar and hot chocolate already "in the jar" in the larder.  Top ups, however, do count.

3) I know the price of the meat, fish and cheese in the freezer - they will come off the tally as-and-when they are used.  

4) Leftovers in the freezer are free.  That means I don't have to work out how much a six-month old tub of Base or Sophie Dahl's Dhal costed when I made it months ago.  The same goes for the lunch boxes stored in the freezer.

5) How to account for the dried beans, lentils and chickpeas we use, has occupied some considerable thought.  We don't use everything all the time and I usually cook up dried pulses in batches, storing them in the freezer. I can't imagine going through more than 2kg dried weight of pulses in a month and, chances are, if I hadn't stocked up at Wing-Yip, we would buy a 2kg bag in rotation every month. We are almost out of Chana Dhal (split chickpeas) so a 2kg bag has been added to the shopping list and will represent the cost of all dried pulses used in February.

6) For rice, rather than buy some more (we have 12kg in stock), I will deduct the cost of 2kg of the cheapest rice from the tally.

7) Ditto flour but, in this case, it'll be the cost of either one or two of the standard sized bags of flour, depending on how large they are.  (We use a couple of kilos a month baking our own bread, etc.)

8) In the pre-Costco days, we'd buy 6-8 cans of tomatoes each month.  There are 7 in the cupboard right now, so I'll deduct the cost of 7 cans from the tally and limit us to 7 cans for the month.

9) What about other store cupboard items?  Based on nothing more than the assumption that few people won't have something in stock, I'll tag 3 cans of tuna and two of pilchards/salmon as "free", together with one jar of sauce (either pasta bake or potato bake).  Ditto a box of breakfast cereal and a tin of baked beans.

10) This is a grocery spend challenge, so it includes items such as cleaning products, washing powder, toiletries and tampons - anything that would normally be purchased at the supermarket.

Having set the rules, right now I'm contemplating how to spend the money.  £50 isn't a lot of money - it's £12.50 a week or £1.78 a day which is a scary figure when you consider that's groceries for two people.  The only way to make it work is to break it up into "shops":  £20 for the main supermarket shop; £10 for two trips to the farm shop for vegetables and eggs (£5 a trip); £15 for meat and/or fish from the freezer; £5 for a second, top up supermarket visit.

Will we starve? No.  Will we have a stand-up row in the middle of Tesco at some point?  Probably.  Will we get through February without breaking the £50 budget?  I really don't know.  Wish us luck.

- Pam

(is anyone else up for the challenge?)

Sunday 4 January 2015

Five hours

That was the total delay by the time we landed back at Heathrow this morning: 4.5 hours in Raleigh Durham and half an hour circling over London due to the fog.

(The initial delay was due to a faulty wing light.  They shipped the part from Dallas.)

- Pam. (Now to stay up after having had 3 hours sleep last night.)

Saturday 3 January 2015

So much for panic

After all that, our connecting flight is delayed by at least 3 hours.  It needs a part which is being shipped from Dallas and won't get here until 9pm.   

(We got off the last plane at 6pm.)

Frustration, worry and fear

We're on our way home after a wonderful holiday in Miami.  However, it could all turn to disaster on the last leg home.  We have a 45 minute stopover in Raleigh Durham Airport, during which we have to collect our luggage, drop it off at the transit desk, go back through security and get on our connecting flight to London.

Problem:  our flight in Miami boarded 10 minutes late, waited another 15 minutes for a baggage issue to be sorted then taxied around for 20 minutes before takeoff.  And we are sitting in the second last row of the plane.  Will we make our connection?


(Oh and they just told us we will land 10 minutes late.)

Friday 2 January 2015

Frugal Friday - use up what you have

For the trip to Miami, I bought with me 100g  yarn for a pair of Monkey socks - started just before we left London - and sufficient aran weight yarn to make a Five Hour Baby Sweater for a colleague's baby shower.  The sock were finished last weekend, while the sweater was completed this time yesterday afternoon. Disaster!  I ran out of scheduled knitting!

My initial plan when we visited Michaels earlier this week was to buy some Lionbrand Sockease.  While I know it's not the poshest yarn in the world, I listened to all 100+ episodes of their podcast, Yarncraft, and wanted to give them some custom as a thank you.  Anyway, Michaels didn't have any Sockease; they didn't have any sock yarn whatsoever and precious little fingering weight (4-ply).  This meant that my other plan - to knit a second pair of socks from souvenir sock yarn has been totally stymied.  (There is little chance I'll get to either of the other two major craft stores, Jo-Ann's or Hobby Lobby before we fly home tomorrow.)

So there I was, yesterday afternoon wondering what on earth I could knit now.  I had leftover Toft Alpaca sock yarn, 75g of baby blue acrylic, a set of 2.5mm DPNs and a 7mm circular needle.  Using the acrylic didn't appeal  - I need to save it for future baby sweaters - which left the sock yarn.  I dismissed starting another pair of socks; without weighing it, I know there just isn't enough yarn for a full pair and I don't have access to any other suitable yarn to make a pair of half-n-half socks.  That left me with fingerless mitts/wristers. The only worry being, will I have enough yarn?  

Last night, I started to work out a pattern, knitting as I go.  Following a session with scales this morning, I now know that I have 38g of yarn to play with.  Ravelry tells me that I have 174.8 metres left of the sock yarn.  The scales tell me that the 24.5 rounds I've knitted so far weigh 6g, so 1g = 4 rounds.  That means I can knit 76 rounds per wrister, a reasonable length, and still have a metre or two left over for repairs.  

A bit of thought, some mathematics and a touch of creativity means that I can continue to practice my hobby without spending a dime.  And I'm using up something that would normally get buried in stash for a few years.  One last brownie point - I've started my 2015 Knit from Stash challenge early!  Yay, me!!

(Here I am working on my new project, soaking up the sun and listening to a podcast in my favourite spot at TLA's house in Miami.)

Tracking books

Can anyone recommend an iPhone app for tracking the books that you read and reporting the statistics, say by month and year?  I want something with start and finish dates.

While I'm sure I will report the books I finish in 2015 on my blog, anything that makes tracking them easier will help.  The ongoing theme to my reading last year was selecting a new book for each trip because I couldn't find the previous (unfinished) book in the 30 seconds before I ran out the front door to catch my flight/train.

Many thanks,


Thursday 1 January 2015

Addendum to Fifteen Challenges in 2015

The New Year for my resolutions doesn't start until Sunday, 4th January, when we land back at Heathrow.  Therefore, "2015" for these purposes runs to 3rd January 2016.  

Happy New Year, everyone.

- Pam. (this is the only way some of my resolutions will be workable)