Wednesday 29 November 2017

Taking a Step Back

Our living room revamp is done and now we've had a few weeks to get used to it I can honestly say it's the best thing we've done for a while.

The old look was crisp and fresh and suited us at the time, but this new look suits the house and how we use it day to day.  You don't know this when you first move into somewhere but you learn and adapt as time passes. 

As you can see from this selection of photos we didn't rush the process, deciding instead to do it in stages.  The chimney breast was wallpapered with our bargain buy brick effect paper.

The rest of stage one was a quick coat of white paint on the ceiling, walls and woodwork.  It didn't need doing anywhere except round this window where the rain had poured in the other year, but you can't do one spot and leave the rest .... unfortunately  ;-)

The large low bookcase that used to stand under the pictures on this wall was no longer needed after our big book sort out of last year so that went out into the workshop leaving us an expanse of floor space temporarily occupied by this diddy lamp bearing table.  We had a plan for the space but we had to wait for just the right thing to come along.

While we waited we used our car boot sale profits from last year to pay for a fitted carpet, the chilly laminate and ever shifting rug just had to go.

But it wasn't too long before just the right thing appeared in our local second hand shop. 

A small drop leaf table that holds the lamp we have lit every night.  It can be used for one or both of us to work on with one leaf up or for impromptu meals in the cosy living room if we don't want to eat off our laps.  It also matches in perfectly with the age of our cottage ... and with my Nana's little bedroom chairs that I have always loved.

The next piece of the puzzle was a new comfortable sofa and matching chair. 

Not to the age of the house this time but bought to add a lovely retro pop of colour to the downstairs, which luckily fits in quite well with our beloved green at the back of the fireplace and on the built in cupboard doors.  As you can see from this photo and the one on here the other day, the animals approve of the new cosy furnishings, although if you look closely you will notice we have bought some cheap matching fleeces to put on the seat cushions to protect them from moulting furry bodies. 

The fireplace wall was finished off with the return of ...

... the flying Pugs.

Now resprayed a more Pug coloured creamy colour instead of their former brilliant white which jarred with the new 'brickwork'.

  Our overall plan was always to go back to the age of the house a little bit more, it is a relative youngster compared to a lot of our neighbours houses but at well over a hundred years old it's nice to give a little nod to it's past with some cosy touches.

Sue xx

Monday 27 November 2017

Monday Morning Cuteness

Because sometimes on a cold, wet Monday morning all you want is a bit of doggy and pussycat cuteness.

I'm glad the new chair sets of the colour of Mavis and Ginger so well  ;-)

Sue xx

Saturday 25 November 2017

First it was Meat ... Now it's Fish

Last Friday I posted all about our Musclefood delivery and the meat that we bought to stock the freezer for Alan's meals (see here) ...  this week's bulk purchase for the freezer is fish.

In Tesco one day last week I noticed the end of one of the chiller cabinets was absolutely full of sides of salmon at the reduced price of £7.50, instead of the normal £15.  After checking all the other fresh salmon prices I bought two.  In the cinema half an hour later I thought about this and decided to nip back to get two more thinking that they would last us a long time at this brilliant price.  By the time my film had finished and I had driven the three minutes back to Tesco the fridge had been stripped bare ... as had lots of other shelves, it seems the Christmas buying frenzy is already upon us.

But never mind I had my two safely in the boot of the car  :-)

They have now been sliced into meal sized portions.

Although a couple were slightly over the recommended 100g of meat or fish allowance for a meal.

Each portion was wrapped in Easy-leave, so it would be safe in the freezer and separate from the pieces next to it.

I just weighed every now and then to keep me on track, especially as the fish changed shape towards the tail end.

Once both sides had been portioned out and wrapped I put them into a freezer proof box and added the label off one of the packs.

Then I decided to write on the label how many portions I had started with and the cost per portion, because as much as I think I'm going to remember I never do.

A Tesco single plain salmon fillet is currently on sale at £2.35 for 130g.  So I think my portions at just 83p each are an absolute bargain, and with 18 slices now nestled in the freezer Alan will have a fish dish every now and then at a much lower cost than usual.

Sue xx

Thursday 23 November 2017

Soup ... and Egg and Bacon Breakfast Muffins

The huge pan of soup I made at the start of the week has done sterling work keeping us fed every lunchtime.

After dishing us up a bowlful each at lunchtime on Monday, I cooled off two single and two double portions for the freezer, and some was put into a clean pan and popped into the fridge once it was cold.  Today we have just eaten the last of this particular batch, a smaller bowlful each this time, followed by a sandwich. 

Tomorrow while I am away at my sons, Alan can have some of last weeks Broccoli soup for a change with some of Stilton crumbled in ... his favourite.

A new favourite of his are these egg and bacon breakfast 'muffins'.

Easy to do and they cook in the time it takes you to feed dogs and drink your first coffee of the morning ... about 20 - 25 minutes.

Simply oil a muffin tray and line each section with a slice of bacon, add some chopped tomatoes, and/or mushrooms if you have them ...

... pour in some beaten eggs and cook in a medium hot oven until the egg is set as much as you like it.

You can just crack an egg into each cup of the muffin tray if you like the white and yolk separate from each other, but our eggs were quite big so he divided two eggs between four cups.

And then try and remember if you are going to do a blog post about them to catch him before he eats the first two  ;-)

Sue xx

Tuesday 21 November 2017

You never know what you'll find on an Aga ....

You never know what you're going to find on the Aga, yesterday for instance it was this weeks huge pan of homemade soup.

It was just cobbled together from pickings and trimmings from the polytunnel and net tunnel with an added onion or two and a couple of slices of celery from the fridge salad drawer.  I even found a marrow that I didn't know was still left in the net tunnel when I was having a tidy up of one of the beds.  I didn't manage to fit it all in the pan so half of the chunks were popped into the freezer for next weeks pan of soup.

I've recently started adding some beetroot to most of my soups, it gives the whole pot this wonderful deep reddish colour.

Of course the Aga is not just a giant soup maker ....

... this morning it looks like this!!

I think Ginger brought a mouse in over night, and the kitchen and conservatory bore the tale of a frantic mad chase of said mouse by a cat and a Jack Russell.  My wellies were knocked over and this one had obviously been used as a refuge, although why it was soaking wet inside I'll  never know ... sometimes it's best not to dwell on these things.

Once it's dried out I'll have to stick the lining back to the rubber and put the whole incident out of my mind.

Sue xx

Sunday 19 November 2017

Evenings Out for Free

With next years penny pinching, frugal minded, cost cutting living in mind I recently re-read this book.  In it Kath lives for a year on just one pound a day ... as the title suggests ... she does it to save for a wedding present for her brother, we however, are cutting costs back to the bone to try and pay off our small mortgage taken out after paying off our main mortgage and still secured on this house.

One of the things she does ... apart from yellow stickered shopping and gathering in freebies ... is to look for events offering an evening or day out, where drinks or free food are available and a fun time can be had for absolutely nothing.

So when this invite popped into my emails instead of doing what I would normally do and simply deleting it, because we won't be ordering any Christmas food from Bodnant I made a note of the date and we went.

We really did get a warm welcome, the fizz was delicious and the mince pies equally so.  We had a pleasant mooch about the shop sipping on our fizz, oohhd and ahhd over delicious gift ideas, picked up the offered food order form and left feeling very festive.

Also on the email was this offer for the next evening. 

So we paid our donation to a very deserving charity and had another pleasant evening, this time sampling wines and ports.  I think we more than got our moneys worth and learnt a little bit more about some of our favourite wines in the process.  

During the day we had also called back up to Bodnant to try and have a word with the technical Aga people about something Alan wanted to check out to do with the power of the Aga and our solar energy system. 

There were even freebies on offer here ... I was offered a slice of ginger cake but on enquiring it had butter and eggs in it, so I said thank you but no thanks as I'm a vegan,  'ooh said the lady would you like some chips instead then .... they are really tasty they're cooked in goose fat' 

Haha, she saw the funny side almost as soon as the words had left her lips.

Our next 'evening out' is to the showrooms of the people who supplied the windows for the workshop.  We don't need any windows at the moment .... but Mulled Wine, a mince pie and some Christmas carols will go down very nicely thank you  :-)

We're treating it all as good practice for next year,  if celebrities can turn up to the  'opening of an envelope' to get their faces in the magazines we can turn up for free drinks and food and an interesting couple of hours out.

Have you ever done something similar?

Sue xx

Friday 17 November 2017

A Meatier Than Usual Post

This week for the first time ever I ordered from Musclefood.  My son has used them a couple of times but I had always resisted temptation.  But now with not a lot of meat left in the freezer for my lovely hubby I decided to stock up in time for Christmas with the idea that this would form the major part of his Christmas dinner and keep him well supplied into the New Year.

I chose an offer that I picked up off a Facebook frugal foods page, which gave me 2.5kg of chicken breasts, with a 'hamper' of various mixed meats that were worth £19.55 but which were the 'free' offer, and then another 2.5 kg of chicken for £12.

It was delivered on time by courier in a chilled box yesterday and after it spent a night in the workshop, which is as cold as a fridge overnight, we set to this morning to get it all ready for the freezer.

I was surprised at the size of the chicken breasts, so I got out the scales and weighed them.  Not bad at all, they were well over 200g each.  Which means that following NHS guidelines there is more than enough in each one for two adults to have as part of a meal.

With Alan doing all the meat handling and me doing the wrapping it was all portioned out and ready for the freezer in no time.  The chicken breasts were wrapped individually and then put into boxes to avoid freezer burn, the sausages were snipped apart and wrapped with a layer of EasyLeave between but everything else was just checked for a level of separation and then popped into the freezer as  they were.

I was wondering how to work out the costings for each item at first, then Alan suggested to simply count the portions we would use for a meal.

So we counted :

24 chicken breasts x one meal each
1 x mince meal
2 x meatball meals
2 x steak burger meals
1 x sweet chilli chicken meal (these seem quite small)
2 x sausage meals
2 x chicken breast meals

So a grand total of 34 meals, which if I divide that by the total amount the order cost me to have sent (including delivery), would make the meat part of each meal £1.08. 

But after seeing the size of the breasts we now think that most of them will be used for two meals if it's something like curry, casserole, stew etc.  If they are to be the 'star' of the show, sliced meat for sandwiches, a large roast dinner etc, then they might be used for just one meal.  So counting three quarters of them as two meals, and using the mince for two instead of our original thought of one meal (it's very tightly packed, not loose like you get from a supermarket or the butcher, so seemed small, but after checking the weight it does weigh in at over 200g), we now have a working total of 55 meals.

Yes that's fifty five meals!!

Which brings our cost for the meat part of any meal down to 67p.


I know it's not very often that you get a 'meaty post' from me, but living with a meat eater is my life and something I can't change, so it means that we just make the best of things, and one of the things I am good at is saving money with food .... but I am glad I had Alan to help with the handling of all this well packed meat, otherwise I think a thick pair of rubber gloves would have been called into play   :-)

If you would like to have a look at the Musclefood site for yourself and see all the bargains there you can use this link to get you there:   MUSCLEFOOD

If you do decide to buy anything while you're there use my referral code ... which is SH731226 ... and you will get an extra freebie that can be chosen from one of four items ... and being totally honest I will get a 500 point referral fee.  I have also added a link to the sidebar for while so you don't have to keep coming back and finding this post.  Just click on that and you will have access to the site and my code.

Have you used this site before, what did you think of it?

  We were very pleasantly surprised and wondered why we hadn't taken the plunge before.  One thing for sure is that we will be ordering again in a few months when the 55 meals have been eaten and there is some more space in the freezer.

Sue xx

Thursday 16 November 2017

More Books ... and No Excuses

I just couldn't resist  :-)

I only called into Asda for some bread and milk, and somehow found myself in the book aisle. 

They were soooooo cheap, and it is nearly Christmas, and I don't want any presents this year, and I could go on and on and give you a myriad of excuses and reasons, but there are none needed, I wanted these books and I bought them. 

Good reading for the Winters nights ahead.  

I'll add them to the new books I bought the other week and the copy of the first 'Eat Well for Less' book that Alan bought me when he bought himself two woodworking books last weekend ... which means our new book total for the house is -


My name is Sue I am a bookaholic .... and so is Alan  ;-)

Sue xx

Tuesday 14 November 2017

So ... What DID I Buy with my Vouchers

After the last post I thought it only fair that I came back on and tell you what I did actually decide to buy with my Tesco and M&S vouchers.  I had no fixed idea of what I intended to get until I got to Tesco and then I thought what would give be the absolute best value for my vouchers in terms of food shopping that would be useful for next year when we have decided to scrimp and save on the housekeeping to help us save to pay off the mortgage.

Dried goods it had to be then.  

The Basmati rice was £5.70 for 4kg, the Red Lentils £1.80, the Pearl Barley and the Yellow Split Peas came in at 55p each .... just 10p over my £8.50 worth of vouchers.

I could have gotten more rice for my money if I had gone for the Everyday Value long grain rice ... a whopping 12kgs in fact ... and we might be eating that by the end of year, but how much better to start the year with a decent supply of our favourite rice.

Today I nipped into Marks and Spencer while I was in Llandudno and decided on the spur of the moment to get treats with the £6 I had in vouchers from there.  So mince pies for Christmas for Alan and some sweets for the cinema for me.

My trip to Tesco also threw up some yellow stickered bargains.

A selection of meats for the freezer ...

... a tray of Mediterranean vegetables, that worked out cheaper than buying a couple of courgettes to go with veggies I already had at home.

And a bag of nice baking potatoes ....

... that will be in use as soon as we have finished the last of our homegrown ones.

Not a bad little shopping spree :-)

Sue xx

Sunday 12 November 2017

Coupons and Vouchers

It's the time of the year that the quarterly coupons and vouchers pop through our letterbox ... along with the charity begging letters containing 'complementary' Christmas cards, raffle tickets to sell and free pens, none of which even get properly looked at.  I choose who gets my charitable donations, and any organisation wasting that much money on postings are not included.

 Anyway in years gone by when we've been using our M&S and Tesco credit cards to pay for building supplies and larger items (always paid off in full at the end of the month of course from the money we had saved to make the purchases) the amount of coupons we received were brilliant and helped out during many a blog money saving Challenge.  Now with everything necessary purchased and our spending cut right back,  tbe coupons are much lower in value ... but still worth having in my opinion.

As you can see we have got £8.50 in Tesco Clubcard vouchers ...

...and our M&S card has given us a total of £6 in vouchers. 

We no longer have a Tesco credit card and just use a Clubcard to pick up points, most of which we accrue for fuel for the vehicles.  Although with Alan now predominantly working from home even our fuel bill has plummeted , thank goodness.

So my question to you ... what would you do with a grand total of £8.50 to spend in Tesco and £6 to spend in M&S?

Sue xx

Thursday 9 November 2017

Suky in a Hat

Mum bought Suky a couple of hats from a charity shop a few weeks ago.

  She likes seeing Suky in hats.  But it's a real challenge to get her to wear them for modelling purposes so the other day when she was cosy in her bed, all alone with Mavis upstairs with Alan in the office, I snuck up and put the first one on.

She hummphed ... but was resigned to being photographed ...

... so I got the other one.

She just looks resigned doesn't she  :-)

So I put the first one back on and got another shot.

Sue xx

Tuesday 7 November 2017

A Neat Cook ... and Bashed Biscuits

I've turned into a neat cook.  

I like to measure out all the ingredients and have them ready to throw into the pan as and when I need them, this saves so much time spinning around in the kitchen making myself dizzy while I rummage through cupboards for ingredients while my onions burn or my garlic singes.  It also means that I have time to put on my thinking cap and work out what I can use in place of any ingredients that I might not have.

This time I was following this recipe as I wanted to use up our last homegrown cauliflower.  It was absolutely delicious and these amounts gave us a large portion each for one night served with rice, a smaller portion for the next night again with rice for me, and with rice and a pork chop for Alan, and one also a small tub full for the freezer which will make either a lunch for one or an addition to a Buddha bowl for both of us.

Delicious ... I added peas to ours because I didn't have any fresh coriander to add that very necessary splash of green.   :-)

Pudding was a simple favourite of ours, a layer of fruit in a glass, a layer of chilled Oatly custard and then a packet each of crushed Biscoff biscuits for a crunchy topping.  We ate them before I took a photo, but this is how it all started off.

Sue xx