Tuesday 4 February 2020

Update on my goals

Hi!  How are things with you?  I’m working too hard - I’m covering a full time role on one of the Highways contracts we have at work, while still trying to do parts of my real job and live my life.  It’s not fun and it involves a lot of mileage.  Here’s the update on my goals for 2020:-

1. Knit 20 balls of yarn (that's between 3 & 5 jumpers worth). 3/20
2. 20 minutes a day learning French (via Duolingo and TinyCards)
3. 20 minutes exercise a day for 20 weeks.
4. Read 20 books. Still on my first book, “People like us” by Caroline Slocock.
5. Try 20 new dinner recipes
6. 20 gardening sessions
7. Explore 20 new places 1/20 - We were in France over New Year and toured the cathedral at Bayeux
8. Attend 20 "shows" (concerts/plays/films/BBC recordings) 2/20 - Frank Skinner and, yesterday, the recording of BBC’s News Quiz
9. Do the 2020 Fashion On The Ration Challenge and keep within the coupon count 0/60
10. Phone family/friends to chat 20 times (I'm hopeless on the phone)
11. Lose 20lbs
12. Mend 20 items of clothing (yes, that includes sewing on buttons and taking up hems)
13. Declutter 20 items
14. Run 20 miles (but not all at once)
15. Save 20 x £20 out of my “allowance”(£400)
16. Make 20 site visits for work, earning mileage 20 times (it goes to the car fund).  13/20
17. Write 20 blog posts (in 2019, I haven't managed one yet)  4/20 - including this one
18. Log 10,000 steps on my Fitbit on 20 or more days (harder to do than it sounds). 1/20
19. Have a party in the summer and invite at least 20 friends
20. Watch at least 20 programs that have been on the DVR since 2018
21. Post on TMF at least 20 times.  5/20

As you can see, I’ve made a start.  Wonder how I’ll do in February??

- Pam

Saturday 1 February 2020

Frugal Friday on Saturday - Housekeeping and the Grocery Bill

On MSE, someone mentioned that they were struggling to get their food bill down  and wondered how others managed to stick to such a low budget for two adults. I was thinking about this when I was soaking kidney beans yesterday, so I thought I’d elaborate a little on how we do it.  Our full housekeeping budget is:-

£120 - MSE Grocery Challenge/general groceries/Farm shop & supermarket shopping
£ 40 - Meat Fund (spent irregularly at the butcher’s and Costco 
£ 40 - Bulk Fund (used for Costco spends, WingYip and booze)
£ 20 - Christmas (for the goose (£107 last year), tree, chocolates, etc)
£ 10 - Garden Fund

That’s £60 up from when I started my blog in 2007.  (I think groceries were £100, Meat and Bulk were £30 each, Christmas £10 and we didn’t have a garden fund, back then.)

We eat really well:  plenty of home-made curries, stir-fries, stews, risotto, pasta, the odd roast, some vegetarian dishes.  For a stew, I’ll use about 300g of meat, plus onions, garlic, carrots, maybe peppers, and a (pre-cooked, dried) pulse or broad beans from the freezer.   I don’t do a lot of “meat and two veg” because, frankly, I find that boring.  

Most meals give 4 portions.  For portion control, I dish up the next day’s lunches as the same time as our dinner ( prevents my DH eating a second portion). 

A big secret is planning.  I don’t mean meal-planning, which I do rather badly. (I tend to stand in front of the fridge/freezer after dinner and think “what have we got in?  What needs to be used up?  What haven’t we eaten lately?”, when considering what we’ll eat for dinner the next day.). It’s about thinking ahead and cooking for more than one meal at a time - those kidney beans that I mentioned?  That was for three meals; two 400g portions are now in the freezer.   I’ll do the same with chickpeas, mung beans, black-eyed beans - dried the dried pulses we have in stock.  Since most of my recipes start “fry onion with garlic, add mushrooms”, I’ll cook up double quantities and freeze the second portion as “Base”, for those days when I’m time poor.

It’s also about thinking of the meal possibilities when you purchase meat.  A roast chicken is dinner one night (the legs), Chinese the next (one breast), then risotto (the other meat) on the third night, plus stock.  A 1kg package of cooking bacon from L!dl costs £1.39, will be split into 4 and  one portion can make any of the following:  Cuban Black Bean Stew, Breakfast Pie, Tuna Lasagne, regular Lasagne, “Bacon & Egg McMuff!ns”, Coq au Vin, etc.

Some of it is about buying in bulk, so I’d suggest you put £5-£10 a month aside for buying good storage containers.  (I use Lock-n-Lock; they aren’t cheap but are critter-proof and water-tight.).   Once you have those, save the cash for a large pressure cooker, in which to cook your pulses.

I only have one type of flour in stock - the bread flour sold as “chapatti” or “Atta” flour, which comes in 10kg bags and costs between £3 and £4 a bag.   It gets used for everything that needs flour: bread cakes (add 1tsp baking powder per cup to make “self-raising”); pastry; pancakes;  Toad in the Hole, etc.  A 2kg bag of kidney beans costs around £3.50, which equates to about 15p a can (NB each 400g can gives 250g cooked beans).   That bag of beans will last us at least 4-6 months. 


- Pam