Thursday 31 January 2013

The £2 Housekeeping Challenge - January Report

Well here we are the final day of January already, wow it's gone fast, although I guess having this flu for the last couple of weeks or so has meant that I've been a bit off the normal day to day treadmill.  Strange how everything grinds itself to a standstill and all your efforts are spent just trying to get through each day.  I almost feel as though things have been happening in my absence, and then suddenly yesterday I felt like me, do you know what I mean?  Although I am still kicking myself for not having shares in 'Kleenex'.  That's almost the entire years stash of tissues used up already!!
Anyway yesterday I decided that I just had to go shopping, partly for supplies and partly that I just wanted to be out and about talking, well croaking - I've still got a dreadful sore throat,  to people.  So I braved Mr Sainsb*rys for a stroll around the shelves.  It's nice shopping on a quiet day when there's not a lot of folk about and also not a lot you have to buy.  You can wander the aisles taking the time to look at products and read labels, to marvel at price increases (do they honestly think we don't notice!!)
I spent a total of £26.27 on the things in the photo, there were a few good offers that I took advantage of the Yeo Valley yogurts were £1.50 each or 2 for £2, the Quorn products 'Buy 2 get 1 Free', the sweeteners 'half price' and the pack of Caramel Snickers for just £1, ideal for this week as I'm travelling tomorrow and Lovely Hubby will be left to fend for himself at home for the weekend watching the rugby, so I did have to get him a couple of treats, hence the 'Steak Flavoured crisps and sliced ham to make himself a bun with.
The two packs of bread rolls were quickly separated when I got home and popped into a large box in the freezer, this way we can take a single bun out whenever we need one and they all stay as fresh as possible. It's watching the pennies like this that really allows you to save the pounds.
I also got him some bottles of beer and a pack of cider but that I have decided comes out of my spends.

We re-evaluated our spends at the beginning of the year, LH gets £30 a week and I get £20.  LH spends £20 of his on lunches or snacks in the staff restaurant at work and I spend mine on my six weekly haircut and monthly prescription, there really is nothing else I need and I was ending up really in profit at the end of each month, at first I offered for this to go into the 'house' savings fund but then we decided that my excess would be our 'drinking and eating out' money.  Just the odd case of cider and a couple of bottles of wine, and the occasional meal at our favourite eating place when we have a voucher to bring the cost down,  it does mean that we get some good treats for the weekend without having to dip into the housekeeping money.  Sometimes you need a little treat to keep you on the frugal path and yet still sane!
So now - total housekeeping spend for this month.
This has come in at a grand total of £43. 
Mostly on food but with a few other things thrown in, namely a couple of Radio Times, a battery for the WW scales yesterday and what seems like a years supply of Paracetamol to zap these flu germs.  To see the money spent in each individual week have a look at the 'stand alone page' at the top of the Blog entitled  'The £2 Housekeeping Challenge for 2013 - Less Spending'.
Now it's on to February, a shorter month and one in which I want to spend even less.  If we look at the fact that I have £480 to last the whole year this breaks down to £40 a month and January has seen me spend more than that....OOOPS!!  But on the whole I am really pleased at how it is going, there are still lots of things left in stock both in the store cupboard and in the freezers, so I can continue with just top up shops, it's also almost time to start planting, a sign that we will be eating ridiculously cheaply very soon and I've even figured out how I don't have to embarrass myself by standing at the checkout in the supermarkets counting out £2 coins into the hands of the waiting cashier........I use the self-serve tills!   We have two larger ones at our local Mr Sainsb*rys with their own conveyor belts which means you can process all your stuff quicker (folk even do full trolleys worth of stuff)  than on the little ones so now I use these, and only me and the machine knows that I am feeding it a stream of £2 coins :-)
Sue xx

Wednesday 30 January 2013

One and a Half Onions ...

One and a half onions ... were all it took to give me the idea to make a Spaghetti Bolognese.   Sometimes I do a meaty one for Lovely Hubby and a Quorn version for me, but this time in the interests of good onion management I simply used a full pack of Quorn Mince and made sure I fully loaded the flavours so he wouldn't even notice his lack of meaty goodness.
A dash of Mushroom Ketchup, half a dozen Red Wine Cubes, a good half tin of tomato puree, a sprinkle of dried herbs, a splash of Worcestershire Sauce, lots of freshly ground black pepper and long slow cooking for the flavours to develop and it turned out a treat.  So much so I completely forgot to photograph the finished meal.  I can't even take a photo of the meal I had planned tonight.
 Using a full bag of Quorn Mince meant that there was plenty for generous helpings for both of us last night with lots of wholewheat spagetti and there should have been enough for tonights planned meal of a Mince Cobbler, but it was obviously so tasty that LH has taken the tub of leftovers to work with a pack of Ryvitas for dipping into as his lunch.
Oh well at least there are two onions left ...... what next I wonder :-)
I use my ice cube trays for many different things and in the interests of wasting nothing, yesterday the other half of the tin of Tomato Puree was spooned into an ice cube tray and popped into the freezer, a good tip for making the most of what you have.  Tins of tomato puree are usually so much cheaper than the squeezy tubes so I always buy whichever is on offer at the time and do this once a tin is opened.  The little cubes keep indefinitely in a tub in the freezer and you can add as many or as few as you want for the dish you are cooking.

I'm determined to make my £2 Housekeeping Budget go as far as I possibly can and every little money saver will help towards this.  Although Approved Foods are being sooooo cruel at the moment and tempting me with all sorts of wonderful goodies.  The latest thing to arrive in my email 'In Box' was the offer of our absolute favourite Cheese and Onion Risotto mix at 29p each or just 4 for £1.....I must be strong, I must be strong.  Of course it helps slightly that I still have ten packs of the wonderful stuff lurking in the store cupboard :-)  Use the link on the sidebar and nip on over yourself to see what other wonderful offers there are to be had.
Sue xx

Tuesday 29 January 2013

The last of the original fresh foods ......

The last of the original fresh foods ...... have been lurking in the cupboards almost daring me to use them up.  The longer I have managed to eek them out the further my £2 Housekeeping Challenge budget will stretch.
 I don't remember buying these onions, it must have been half way through December, well before Christmas at any rate.  They still seem fresh, but sometimes you never know with an onion.  So in the spirit of Four Potatoes and Three Fishes  I decided that this week they must be used.
Following on with yesterdays moan at the sheer amount of eggs in stock at the moment I decided that the first recipe just had to contain eggs, so using the first onion, a red one...
... I whipped up a cheese and onion quiche, with three eggs and some little Blobs of Onion Marmalade from the fridge (to add a suitably gourmet edge to proceedings) and not wanting to put the oven on just for a quiche I whipped the last four Sultana Scones made during my marathon Scone making session back in October of last year from the depths of the chest freezer. 
The kitchen quickly smelt rather divine, all savoury and sweet at the same time!!
And of course once out of the oven, still warm and oh so yummy a little taste test had to be done with one of the scones......chef's perks and all that  :-)
Half of another of the red onions was finely sliced, added to one of last weeks carrots, roughly grated, and a few leaves of finely shredded iceberg Lettuce to make a quick coleslaw to go with the Garlic Kievs and Basmati Rice we had for tea (chicken for Lovely Hubby and veggie for me).  So that's one and a half onions gone already.  The quiche was sliced into four and will be our lunches for the next couple of days.
Now what to do with the other 3 and a half onions.....
Sue xx

Monday 28 January 2013

Eggs and Dust Bunnies

We have eggs coming out of our ears at the moment, the birds are laying them faster than we can possibly eat them.  The folks we normally sell them to seem to be having an egg eating go slow since Christmas.   We've both been off colour (absolutely flu ridden might be a better description) and have not felt like eating eggs at all.   The dogs have been valiantly chomping down a scrambled egg or two for breakfast most days and even the chickens got to share a dozen eggs scrambled the other day, their own eggs are very good for them, it gives them back all the nutrients they need to produce more, so slightly self defeating there then!!
Because I've not been well and also because of the dreadful weather for the past couple of weeks I've also been unable to visit my lovely Mum and brother who usually have some off us each month, so the egg mountain has built up nicely in the fridge.  This week I need to get on top of this and see what I can do to reduce it slightly back to more manageable proportions. 
I'm slowly starting to feel human again and after my post of the other day about housework, I have indeed even done a bit, mind you only a bit.  While the washer chewed it's way through loads of towels and clothes I got out the hoover and managed to make inroads into the dust bunny population .....
...they were starting to rebel, living cheek by fluffy cheek under the cooker and in all the corners, we had a full scale dust bunny revolution going on.  Some tried to hitch a lift on the dogs noses and make a desperate bid for freedom, but springing stealthily into action I managed to re home them temporarily in the hoover and now they have gone to that great dust bunny skyscraper I call the 'compost bin'. 
Fluff free corners are once more the order of the day, but I spy bits of sunshine and now the grass has miraculously started to appear in all it's green glory my thoughts turn to planting once more, I feel the need to rifle through seed packets and make out a planting plans, dig over the veggie beds and begin preparing the Veggie Patch for a brand new growing season, abandoning all thoughts of housework for the coming days, weeks, months, shhhhh don't tell the dust bunnies they'll be back before I know it!! 
Sue xx

Saturday 26 January 2013

The £2 HouseKeeping Challenge - Weekly Report

Although we have both been pretty poorly, maybe because we have both been pretty poorly in fact, we have managed to keep our spending really low again this week.
We have both been craving some fish, so yesterday, for the first time in ages partly due to being snowed in and partly due to feeling so weak that a car journey seemed totally out of the question, I decided to wrap up well and make an expedition for supplies.  I needn't really have spent anything, we have some salmon in the freezer but for some reason I was really fancying some breaded fish fillets, I was also fancying some Vimto....

..... so Vimto it was and while I was picking that up I was waylaid by my usual liquid refreshment.....
... sparkling water, I bought 10 bottles of the stuff so I will see how long that lasts me.
*** *** ***
So my rather unusual shopping this week consisted of
Two packs of breaded fish for £5
Ten bottles of Sparkling Water for £1.70
One bottle of Vimto for £1.39
Total Spend £8.09
with 91p going into the Sealed Pot
So looking at these figures our average weekly housekeeping budget available for the rest of the year is now £9.70, up from the original £9.23 due to careful, indeed almost non-existent spending.
I apologise for the stock photos but after trekking to the shop and back I was totally exhausted and merely chucked everything in the fridge and cupboard.  We had eaten one of the packs of fish before I even thought about taking a photo of the shopping.
Our snow has now almost vanished and the view from the kitchen window is one of an amazing greeness that we haven't seen for almost three weeks, it looks really fresh and lovely to our snow jaded eyes.
Have a lovely weekend.  Hopefully I'll be back on form by Monday, I see a weekend of lazing around watching tele and reading books ahead of us both.
Update on Caldwell - he's now back out with the flock although not surprisingly he has lost his place at the top of the pecking order, he is having some difficulty fitting back in due mostly to the fact that Harold, who used to be second in command is a great big, young and good looking Light Sussex cockerel who seized his day and decided to take over the flock.  I had to let Caldwell and a couple of the friendlier lavender Pekin Bantams sleep in the Eglu for the last couple of nights to stop him being bullied.  We'll see how it goes. The main thing is that his injuries have healed up nicely.
Sue xx

Friday 25 January 2013

How to Clean the House

And you thought you were getting some housework tips....   :-)
Happy Weekend.
Sue xx

Wednesday 23 January 2013

The Year of Less - More Little Things

Little corners of clutter are simply not escaping my attention any more.  Every now and then something different catches my eye and makes me stop and think.  This corner is a good example. 
We had all the chopping boards next to the bread bin, it worked really well, you grab the loaf from the bread bin grab yourself a board and start slicing away..... you grab a board, yep, one board and start slicing away.  If I'm chopping something up I tend to grab one board to chop on too, I've never known myself to grab six boards and start chopping!!
But they've all lived there since we moved in getting wiped down every week so they're not dusty, and moved and cleaned under, but mostly simply not used.
So I thought which are the two boards that I grab when I'm slicing bread (the round one) and when I'm slicing veggies or meat (the rectangular one, one side for veggies and one side for meat) and these are the two that earn their place.
These three got added to the car boot box and the largest one got slid into the cupboard as Lovely Hubby uses this to chop up large joints (which is once in a blue moon).  Also into the car boot box went the washed out candle pot, everything else got tidied away and now the corner is clear.
Next the fridge caught my eye, the bits were accumulating,  a swift glance told me what was relevant and what was clutter ...
..... it looks a bit better, but there's more to come off yet!!
*** *** ***
The snow is still falling here although now it is light and almost fairy like,  tiny little flakes that are drifting down in the most lazy of fashions covering the already deep lying snow with a dusting of perfection.  When you step in looking like the top of an icing sugar dusted cake you quickly thaw these tiny flakes and wear the lightest layer of moisture, it really is quite beautifully special.
Time for a soothing hot drink and a sit with my feet up I think, this flu that has had me in it's grip for the past week is slowing abating but has left me as weak as Caldwell, it really is like a nursing home here at the moment.
Keep warm.
Sue xx

Tuesday 22 January 2013

A Cockerel in my Kitchen

Lots of you have been asking after Caldwell so here he is for you all to see, alive and well and living in the kitchen.
When I first rescued him after his night in the bucket (see HERE for more information), he was in a sorry state, but hour by hour, day by day he's been recovering nicely.  After a day in the cool utility room to warm him up slowly after being outside in sub zero temperatures, snug in the small cat basket with a cover over three sides he then progressed to the large dog crate in the kitchen.  His dried on blood was once again washed, but not too vigorously, we really couldn't see what the damage was underneath all the scabs so we decided to let nature take it's course, he had already lost so much blood if we disturbed a wound we could have started another bleed.

This seems to have been the right way to go.  Now both his eyes are clear, one cleared by me and the other by time.  He is much perkier and yesterday for the first time was allowed out of his cage to wander around the kitchen and stretch his legs.
After a quick explore he started to preen himself really well and I'm pleased to say he beginning to be a lot more like his normal self.  The only way I know he's not 100% back to normal is that he's not even tried to peck me yet, he's not a very sociable bird our Caldwell.
Maybe it's just that he appreciates me rescuing him....... or maybe he's just waiting til I'm not expecting the attack!!
Anyway he's back to enjoying his food and seems quite content to go back to his cage after an hours wandering around  to rest and gather his strength for the crowing sessions.  The dogs will be very glad when their little dorm mate goes back to Chicken World, our two do not take too kindly to their slumbers being so rudely disturbed at 6am each morning, thank goodness it's not Summer with 4am sunrises is all I can say!
A cockerel in the kitchen ..... far better than a cockerel in a fox!!
Sue xx


Monday 21 January 2013

Whiter than White

Our whole world is white at the moment ...
... the track to the road deep in the lightest and softest of snow.
The animals have gotten over their reluctance to venture out in this alien looking environment and are enjoying playing in the snow.
It all looks so beautiful.
You've just got to remember that when your legs are only six inches long and the snow is six inches deep you have to run like mad to make yourself a pathway.  Suky isn't quite as mad (or as energetic) as Rosy and she tends to follow just behind us to walk in our footsteps and thus not have to carve herself a path.
Sue xx

Saturday 19 January 2013

First Real Food Purchases of 2013

This week I had to go mad and actually spend some money in the supermarket.  We were almost out of everything fresh, you've seen earlier this week how I eeked out the last four potatoes, but we both have really yucky colds and were craving something light and fresh and a bit fruity too.
So I headed out before the blizzards of Friday took hold  to Mr Sainsb*rys to see if there were any bargains to be had.  I spent a total of £3.35 on the above supplies so now (with my change going into the Sealed Pot) my £2 Housekeeping Challenge total is down to £475 to last us for the rest of the year.  Not bad at all though with only £ 3.69 being spent on groceries up to now this year.
Whilst there I treated myself (with my spends) to this magazine, not a magazine I usually buy but our very own Frugal Queen was in it in a lovely two page spread telling the world how she paid off debts of £45k in just 2 years, so I had to have a read, although I have followed her journey avidly on her wonderful Blog (see HERE).  Nice to see a balanced account of someones story in a magazine instead of a 'sensalisation' just for dramatic effect.  A good balanced article.
My poor depleted fruit drawer in the fridge before I went shopping ...
... and after, it doesn't look that great but I also got 2 bananas which don't live in the fridge.
Before going out I had found this tucked at the back of the store cupboard, so I knew some more fruity goodness could be made that will keep us going even longer.
I managed to make five large jars and two smaller ones of very yummy Orange Marmalade as well as a dish that's in the fridge that we are working our through first.  It is very tasty.  Not too sweet which I like, lots of the jams I have made are a little sweet for me but this has a nice tang to it.
So as fast as I get the stores down I seem build them up again, but at least it food ready to eat instead of food waiting to be prepared.
There's something really satisfying about a nice warm kitchen that smells of oranges when outside the window is a scene of a snowy wonderland.
Keep safe and keep warm in this chilly but beautiful weather.
Sue xx

Friday 18 January 2013

Four Potatoes and Three Fishes - Meals 5 and 6

I was going to make two meals out of these potatoes, the plan was for one of them to mixed with the last remaining Salmon fillet and turned into fish cakes and the other to be chopped into matchsticks and added to a Spanish Omelette for tomorrows tea, but to be quite honest I am full of a cold, a pretty bad one and feel YUK, so I took the easy way out  and used them both to make fishcakes.
So with the addition of the last remaining Ginger Salmon Fillet a finely chopped red onion and then being dunked into beaten eggs and then some brown breadcrumbs from the freezer ....
... four substantial fish cakes were produced.  I left them in the fridge for an hour after assembling them to give them time to firm up and then decided that as they were bigger than I originally thought they were going to be we would just have one each for our tea and the others would be popped into the freezer to make meal number six for another night.
Really they are slightly too 'potatoey' and my original plan would have been better, but they were extremely tasty and very fresh tasting.  So that's all my potatoes used up now.  I have half a bag of frozen chips in the freezer and some sliced up potatoes to have as wedges for a couple of meals and I think I have some of the stew packs way down deep in the freezer, so we are not completely out of the humble spud.
We were though almost out of fruit ...
... look at the fruit drawer of the fridge as it was yesterday morning.
 So it was off to the shops for me yesterday before the forecasted blizzards hit to spend some of my £2 Housekeeping Challenge money.  I thought I'd get us some fresh stuff to try and fight off these colds, yes Lovely Hubby is a poorly boy too, in fact he shared his cold with me, we share everything we do....isn't it!!
The weather here is exactly as forecasted with snow tumbling merrily from the sky and my car is almost obliterated already.  Time to fill the log basket and hunker on down for the weekend.
I'll be back tomorrow with pictures of what I bought at the shops, how much I spent and perhaps the obligatory snowy picture.
*** *** ***
Now I'm off to wake up Chicken World and give them some breakfast and warm water to warm their little tummies.  Caldwell is still with us, in fact he was crowing at 6am this morning in the kitchen, now a cockerel in your kitchen has to be heard to be believed.  His head is still pretty bloody but we are leaving the dried blood to fall off naturally we don't know what damage is under there. Today I am fetching the larger dog crate into the house so he has more room to stretch his legs and move around, so his enforced sit still and get better will be over and it will be up to him.
Thank you for all your good wishes, prayers and brilliant comments for him yesterday it was very appreciated, he may only be a bird to some folk but he's our bird and we love him like mad ..... although maybe not quite so much at 6am crowing in the kitchen :-)
Sue xx

Thursday 17 January 2013

Emergency Ward/Recovery Room

Our utility room is currently the 'Recovery Room' for poor little Caldwell II.
We had a fox attack yesterday, he managed to get away with two of our little girl Lavender Pekins and Roadrunner, the smallest of our Lavender Pekin cockerels, bravely Harold, the Light Sussex cockerel and Caldwell defended the flock before he could get any more and the geese rushed to the defence but both Cockerels came off worst for wear.
Last night we thought we had lost Caldwell, there was no sign of him anywhere, I walked the paddocks and the edges of the woods with the dogs looking for him or any other survivors but come dusk we had to close up the henhouse with heavy hearts thinking we had lost four birds.
This morning after cleaning out the henhouse and making sure Chicken World was fully stocked with food and warm water for some reason I was drawn to walk between the worm beds, something I don't usually do and there I spotted my missing green bucket (it's been gone since the windy day we had last week), as I bent to pick it up I spotted a certain gentlemans tail feathers sticking out.  With a sigh I reached in to get him thinking he was dead BUT he moved.
I thought he had had massive trauma to his whole head as it was completely covered with dried blood, it looked like a dark reddish black hood, but after taking him into the 'emergency room' (the kitchen), now after a lot of cleaning with warm water in the kitchen sink I can see most of what has happened.
He has had a huge bleed all around his comb and as this area is very rich in blood supply it had completely covered his head, all I can think is that after being injured and while he could still see he made for safety and chose to run head first into the bucket.  Luckily for him it was between the worm beds which are well insulated agains the cold and I think it was this that has saved his life as he has been out in temperatures of  minus 4 degrees all night.
As he was getting a bit traumatised I stopped bathing him after I had cleared one eye, so now he can at least see what is going on around him.  I will tackle the other eye and see if there is any more damage to his head when Lovely Hubby is home tonight it will be so much easier with two of us, and I think that for now being indoors and warmer will help him to try and sleep off this dreadful ordeal.
He's safe and secure in the cat basket with some water to drink if he wants it, but for now all I can do is wait and let nature start the healing process for him.  He must be feeling slightly better he has just crowed a few times in answer to Harold crowing over in Chicken World.  A cockerel crowing inside your house has to be heard to be believed, it's a good job he's a small bird.
I'm saying lots of chickeny prayers for my beautiful little boy.
*** *** ***
Making our own food as lots of us do means at least we won't have to be worried or alarmed at this latest food revelation!!  Shocking I know from a labelling point of view, but something at the back of my mind says if it's okay to eat pigs, cows, sheep etc why do folk balk at eating horse!!  I understand the religious viewpoint but for everyone else if you eat eat meat!! 
*** *** ***
A message for Iris and Fern - Poppy and Daisy are okay and are with our other Lavender Pekin boy who is looking after them wonderfully.
Sue xx