There will be custard

A lot of people go food shopping and buy the same things over and over again or on impulse with no plan and end up wasting a lot of food as it expires before being eaten.

A few smug people will food plan against what they have in stock, what their plans are that week/month and what is fresh against what isn’t.

I have decided to be one of those people.

I am still running down my epic beans and pulses tinned goods, and the freezer food, so I am not planning a big shop for a while yet but I am itching to start planning it.

I have just sat down with my diary and a fresh sheet of paper and worked out what my plans are like for the upcoming food month.

And our next food month (Saturday 25th February-Friday 24th March) looks a little like this:

HOME MEALS = 11

(Meals where both my boy and I will sit down together and have dinner)

SUNDAY = 4

(A little like ‘HOME MEALS’ in that we will both be at home eating together, but Sunday’s are an excuse for a B I G meal that seems fitting for a Sunday like Toad in the Hole, Cottage Pie, Pies and Veg etc. British style Pub grub basically)

INDIAN = 4

(It is sort of a house rule that we must have an Indian on a Friday or Saturday. I think my boyfriend would riot if we had something different)

OUT AND ABOUTS = 2

(Days when we have mega exciting plans that will take us out of the house all day, though one of these days we will be at the football and our team has lost an awful lot recently so it might not be too fun)

MAKE ‘YER’ OWNS = 8

(Make ‘yer’ owns comes from an expression of my dad’s. When us kids would have to take care of our own dinner because he was working late or out or something he would say goodbye with a cry of ‘Remember, it’s make yer owns tonight’. This means my boyfriend and I will be eating separately due to our plans)

SPORTS DAY = 3

(Sports day is essentially Make Yer Owns, but it happens on a Thursday when my boyfriend plays squash and I play football and come home starving and want to eat quickly in between showers and bed. It is usually heavy on the carbohydrates)

So this is good as it means I need:

4 lots of food we have when having an Indian dinner

4 lots of food that we would eat on a Sunday.

11 meals planned for the days when both my boyfriend and I will be eating together (and taking in his fussiness)

11 meals where I get to experiment and make something creative as I will be cooking just for me

11 meals that can either be ‘pinged’ in a microwave, heated up quickly in the oven/hob or come in a tin for my boyfriend who is an unconfident cook.

I can now structure my food shop against this.

Which will perhaps mean I don’t end up with an intense amount of tinned soup.

I can also make sure I buy my fresh fruit and veggies at certain points in the week so that they don’t expire too quickly.

I have learnt from this week that a tin of beans and some chopped tomatoes will take you a long way towards a filling and cheap veggie meal so I will be sure to stock up on them.

I have also learnt I love custard.

There will be custard.

 

 

 

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Eventually is where I got

Had a half day at work today. I celebrated having extra time at home by doing something extremely exciting and dangerous.

I did a complete food cupboard inventory.

Whaddaya mean that’s not dangerous? A tin could have fell off the shelf and hit my foot!

As mentioned before I have food hoarding tendencies. There are a few reasons for this but it mainly comes down to the fact that as a teenager my family struggled with money and we would frequently be making the best with the very little we had.

Sure none of us exactly looked like we were starving (I blame the three different types of potatoes we would usually have at meals to fill us up), but our diet wasn’t great. I didn’t know what a butternut squash was until I was about 16! And I am relatively knowledgeable…

As a result of being scared that the food will run out I have some pretty bizarre ’emergency’ food items in my cupboard.

Like a packet of instant mash potato.

I have never in my life, not even as a child, eaten instant mash potato. I don’t entirely believe that it actually contains any real food in it.

And yet in my cupboard proudly sits a packet, for a ‘just in case’ moment.

I also seem to have a split personality when it comes to food buying, as I have the ‘foodie’ side of me that loves cooking, that loves ‘weird and healthy’ things like nutritional yeast and quinoa and loves stocking up the cupboards with exotic ingredients…

And then I have the ‘F***, dinner needs making and I’ve only got 5 minutes’ side of me that loves quick fixes like crumble mix, instant noodles, pizzas and microwave rice.

There’s not much I can do at the moment. I spend 3.5 hours travelling to and from work each day, meaning during the week I am out of the house for over 60 hours. This is the price I pay for having a job I love, which is fine, I would rather have it this way round then a job over the road that I hate, but it does mean I am time poor during the week. The week tends to be about ‘surviving’ rather than living.

I also have a boyfriend who, bless him, is a bit fussy as an eater. He has moved on from the childhood phase of eating rice, chips and ketchup for dinner and is much more experimental when you compare it to how he used to be, but we are still at odds with what we like to eat.

This is a list of what I won’t eat:

Meat (I eat fish)

Tinned macaroni cheese (yuk!)

This is a list of what my boyfriend won’t eat:

Mushrooms

Bacon

Eggs

Mayonaise

All fish apart from scampi

Lamb

Pretty much all meat really other than beef, chicken and pork sausages

Garlic

Anything too ‘oniony’

Anything too spicy

Most pasta dishes as they are too ‘boring’

Any nuts of any description

Spinach

‘Stinky’ cheese

I don’t want it to seem like I am making fun of my boy, as people are allowed to have specific tastes (not eating meat is a pretty specific taste, I could be considered just as fussy easily), I’m more explaining why it is a bit hard for us to find meals that we both like to eat. For instance most of my boyfriends strongest dislikes (stinky cheese, garlic, fish, pasta, mushrooms) are my FAVOURITE things to eat.

But enough is enough, and I have decided I am not going to do any large food shops until I have cleared my cupboards of all the emergency/just in case/weird and healthy foods that I have collected.

I have a few things I specifically want to tackle in my cupboards and they are:

Bread Flour

Dried Soya Mince

2 x tins of rice pudding

bag of mixed seeds

jar of molasses

dried fruit

that darn instant mash potato

all my dried lentils and grains

2 x tins of broad beans

and my 13 other tins of various beans/pulses (how the hell do I have that many when only one of us eats them?)

I am going to try and make some new, interesting and cheap dishes that both my boyfriend and I can enjoy (or at the very least I like and I can take in to work as lunch)

First up I think will be broad bean pate.

And maybe some stinky cheese on the side.

Financial Review of Week 4

Hi everyone,

Another week has passed, and I really hope I don’t spend any more as this week has been a wee bit spend-tastic (I will be the first to admit I sometimes take liberties with the English Language)

SOCIAL

Meal out with the boyfriend £15

Costume accessories for Friend’s Hen Party £4 

I debated long and hard about what category this would fall into and decided that as I am hardly likely to wear a pink glittery cowboy hat and a necklace with a shot glass attached in day to day life (unless I start working in the new Coyote Ugly bar in town) these items are for a very specific social event and that’s why I am classing them as such.

Ticket to see a Comedian in May £13.20

TRAVEL

Bus £1. I feel really annoyed about this. I was running a bit late for work anyway on Thursday and then halfway to the station realised I had left my football kit at home, so had to go back and then get the bus to town centre. The expense is definitely preferable to being late for work but still.

WORK EXPENSE

Milk £0.65

FOOD/GROCERY

Tinned Chilli for the boyfriend £1

Milk, Carrots and Bread £2.79

Big monthly food shop £48.28

Bread and Margarine £2.19

Fajita Mix, Rice, Naan, Poppadom, Cous Cous £10.54

Sponges, Listerine, Ibuprofen £5.28

Frozen Food £9.29

Orange Juice, Fruit and Veg, Cleaning Supplies £6.05

Milk, Bread, a danish pastry for me and a chocolate croissant for the boy £4.13

Although this week has involved a lot of spending it has all been either essential or budgeted for expenses, so I don’t feel too bad about it. I just prefer to keep money in my account/purse for as long as possible.

I made £3 this week in an online survey, £3 in an Amazon voucher through a receipt app I’ve got (Receipt Hog) and cashed out £5.40 on another shopping app (Checkout Smart). So I am making small bits of money.

It feels great to have a slightly reduced overdraft. Can’t wait till it is paid off.

I wish you all a pleasant Sunday.

 

A full assessment of my monthly income

Hi everyone,

Well as you know today was payday, wooo to the hoooo!

I have decided to show the full extent of my finances by comparing my income versus my outgoings.

So here goes:

FEBRUARY 2017

INCOME

(After student loan repayments, pension contribution, taxes and national insurance)

£1206.26

OUTGOINGS

Paying back boyfriend for Dr Who Ticket £12.80

Credit Card A £20.97 

Credit Card L £20

Credit Card N £10.40

Bank Charges £15.04

Paying back overdraft £100

Credit Card T £30

Phone Contract £21.49

Broadband £26.17

Gas and Electricity £54

Train Season Ticket £292.30

Rent and Council Tax £198.42

Savings £20

Food/Grocery/Household Shopping £200

Water Bill Payment £19.15

Football Training £12

Football Training Transport Costs £15.60

Membership £3.92

Work Expenses, Gifts, Travel (Day to Day), Travel (Visiting), Home, Social, Health, Postage and Packaging and Clothing Maintenance = £100 (in total)

£1172.26

Remaining = £35

So after everything has been taken out and accounted for I am left with £35 for miscellaneous spending.

As long as I have food and shelter accounted for then I will be fine.

To be in profit after all the bills (some more fun then others) have been taken out is a great feeling.

I am happy. I don’t have room for error, I notice if as little as 1p is missing from my purse, but I have ‘surplus’ money each month. I’m prioritising my debts, things will be fine. I hope.

How to save money on your shopping

Ever heard of extreme couponing?

It’s the act of collecting and stockpiling enough coupons that you can get something ridiculous like £1000 worth of groceries for 6p, or even free.

There is a hit US TV series of the same name which will help give you the gist of what it entails.

I am nowhere near those leagues yet, but then again I am a baby in terms of my time spent extreme couponing. But through a few hours of work sat watching the TV I have amassed a useful amount of coupons for my shopping.

Basically I won’t be running out of yogurts and tea bags anytime soon.

I started doing this in the Summer of 2016 when I was temporarily unemployed. I didn’t want my boyfriend to ‘suffer’ in terms of not having a fully stocked kitchen filled with all his favourite treats, but I needed to be a bit creative with how I food shopped.

I am the sort of person who always has a stockpile of cards and stamps, and I love writing and receiving letters, so what I did was of little hardship to me. I can understand it might not be to everyone’s taste, but here is how I saved money on my food shopping.

Basically I wrote to companies I liked, explaining how much I liked them, and I received coupons in return to save money on my shopping.

Here are my top tips.

  • Never ever directly ask for a coupon or voucher, even if you are complaining about something and feel it’s fair. I think it is human nature (or British nature) to feel a bit put out when someone demands something for free. I recently complained to a major supermarket about a perceived injustice. The injustice was to the matter of 20p. I didn’t ask for anything, just clearly stated my disappointment. They sent me a £5 voucher.
  • Be creative. It would not be unheard of to send a company you like a poem about how great they are or draw a picture about their brilliance (or get a willing child to do so). I haven’t gone to quite these extremes as I am not that talented, but what I do is send Thank You cards (£1.49 for ten in Card Factory) and decorated the cards and envelopes with stickers saying things like ‘Fab’ and ‘Good Work’.
  • Be truthful and specific. Companies love feedback. If you say something generic like ‘You’re great’ that won’t really be good for them, but if you say something like ‘Despite living on a strict food budget and having to buy own brand or value products, we would never compromise on the brilliant taste of X Product and always find the money to buy them.’ They will be more likely to reward you for some information they can take to their directors.
  • Be selective. Don’t write to every company under the sun as not only will you most likely waste all your profit on the stamp costs, but you can’t guarantee how much, if anything, the companies will give you in vouchers. Also you should write to companies you genuinely love as if you get a £1 voucher for a product you only sort of like which normally costs £4 anyway, you won’t really be motivated to use it and would therefore have wasted your time and money on the stamp.
  • Don’t expect immediate results as big companies have lots of mail/emails to go through, but you will hear from them eventually.
  • If you choose to go down the email route make sure you put your postal address in the email as they may send you a voucher in the post. A voucher sent to you is better as with print off vouchers you will normally have to download a (free) bit of software to make sure the barcode scans, but some supermarkets can be funny about print off vouchers.
  • When you have obtained your lovely vouchers, don’t head to the shops straight away. Instead head to the website mysupermarket.com and check to see which supermarket is selling it cheapest, or doing an offer on it. If you have a ‘One Free Product’ voucher, then it would be worth checking to see if a supermarket is selling if buy one get one free, because that way you’d get two for free. Also if you have a £2 voucher for a normally £3.50 product, it would be worth using mysupermarket to see if a supermarket is selling it for £2, as again you would get it for free that way.
  • It would be best to head to a major supermarket to use your vouchers, I know Savers don’t accept vouchers.
  • In my experience it would only be worth writing to a supermarket if you have a complaint. I have sent many (genuine) praiseful letters to my favourite supermarket and whilst they have been thankful for the feedback, they haven’t felt the need to reward my praise.
  • There are two websites, Everyday Caring (Johnson and Johnson) and Super Savvy Me (P&G) that have vouchers available all year round for free for the specified companies.
  • One of my favourite websites ever is the Money Saving Expert website, and they also have a supermarket vouchers section. They also use mysupermarket to tell you if the voucher will get you the product for free anywhere.
  • Whenever you are going to a chain restaurant look to see if they have a voucher offer on their website (maybe for signing up to their newsletter which you can always unsubscribe from) or see if they have an app as that may also give you a voucher. I joined the Hungry Horse newsletter and got a £5 off £15 on food voucher, and downloaded the TGI Friday’s app this year to get a free appetizer.
  • I know you may be thinking “who has time for all this?” and be put off. I won’t lie, it will take time, but it doesn’t have to be a chore, just do it whilst watching TV. The main way to think about it is like this-based on your hourly wage, if it takes you say 3 hours to earn £25, then would it be fair to say it should take 3 hours of effort to save £25?

Now I will get into the admin side of things. For anyone who likes spreadsheets this will be heaven. For anyone who doesn’t…maybe find some other way of doing this.

I have two spreadsheets for my coupon collection. One is a Profit and Loss spreadsheet, which I will talk about first. This takes into account how much I spent sending the letter to the company (stamp cost plus 15p for the card and envelope) and what I got in return. When I first started this in the summer I didn’t receive a coupon from every company I’d written to, but I had made nearly £30 in coupons, £15 of which was profit. Sure that may seem like a small amount, but the cards and stamps I already had, so they could have been considered a sunk cost. Any money I saved during the summer of the great unemployment was of great benefit to me.

(I’ll admit it’s probably only a loser like me who loves spreadsheets that would go to this much effort)

The second spreadsheet is one I would definitely recommend having. It’s just a simple way of keeping track of how much the coupon is for, if there are any conditions for using it, and when it expires. You don’t want to go to all that trouble of collecting these coupons only to have them go out of date. This is a good excuse to acquire a pretty folder.

I have now imparted all my wisdom. I hope some of this may help you.

Adventures Close to Home

I have finally learned how to shop well.

All because I nearly undid my 6 days of good work.

I was food shopping, just a few essentials, when I went into Iceland (cheapest place for frozen veg based on price per gram-I work this stuff out) and saw a shelf full of Wok’s.

I could do with a wok, so I had a look, and the offer was buy three Uncle Ben’s products and get a free wok.

Good deal surely.

So I had a look at the products available. I can take or leave Uncle Ben’s, and I would never spend £1.70 on a packet of microwaveable rice when it is 50p down the road in Home Bargains, but there were some nice little rice and curry pots (vegetarian as well) for £1 each. That was only a spend of £3 for food and a wok, great deal.

But then I put them all back, because the rice pots were probably full of fat and sugar, because the wok looked cheap and nasty and I have been down that road with wok’s before and I want a good one when I next get one, and also because I was considering asking for a wok for Christmas and I didn’t because me and my Boyfriend do not need a wok on account of my boyfriend not liking stir fry or curry.

Yes I’m sure a wok is more versatile then that, but space is a premium in our kitchen on account of me having every kitchen gadget under the sun, most of which have been used once, or less!

It would have only been £3, it would have been nice, but I’m glad I didn’t buy it.

Anyway it’s my birthday in a few months, I can always ask for one then.

I still did my usual looking down every aisle for a good deal, or something magical and exciting (do such things exist in Tesco?) but in the end I left with just the items on my list.

SPENDS

ICELAND – Frozen Chopped Onions – £1.29

TESCO – Milk, Orange Juice, Bread, Cucumber, Parsnips and Bananas – £4.34

All from the food budget.