Monday, 15 February 2021

6 Miss Selfridge items in my basket lately


This post was written before the recent acquisition of Miss Selfridge by ASOS.
To locate the featured products - or similar - head on over here

The hit skirt you may have seen on Instagram

Admittedly the product images for this skirt aren't especially captivating (light green wrap around skirt as above) however I saw someone wearing it on Instagram and this was the selling factor for me. And turns out I'm not alone as the influencer picture is now on the product listing (well was, before the Miss Selfridge website went down).

The print on this floaty maxi dress

It's just so versatile. I can imagine this dress being perfect for city breaks, tropical holidays, after work cocktails, date night and brunch with the girls. Like waaaay in the future when we're actually allowed to do these things ;) I ordered my normal size but it didn't seem to have enough space in the boob department. Miss Selfridge had a 20% off discount code so I re-ordered the same dress (top left as above) and also in the size up to compare. The size up came up too big on me. Oddly the size that was too small before was perfect on the second attempt. What I didn't realise is that the dress has ties that can loosened or tightened accordingly (doh!).

The LOOK AT ME bag

I am trying to be more mindful of the environment so when I last worked in an office environment many moons ago pre Covid I made a conscious effort to stop using plastic bags and switch them out for totes. The tote bag I have is from a blogger event but the biege colour isn't practical for every day life. I also carried around a miniature handbag, the strap of which rubbed against the tote bag and stained it. Said stain is burgundy so could very feasibly be a wine stain given my love of red wine. Whilst I was considering a black tote with a suitably witty remark on it, this mustard macrame bag (as above) jumped out at me as it's a little more aesthetically pleasing than a carrying a large black rectangle around with you. Easily my best find of the year (was £28, in the sale for just £7).

The floral print bardot dress of dreams

This dress is just so effortlessly cool. I'm not always a fan of that elasticated corseting detail on dresses (very compressing on the boobs) but if the cut of the dress is right, it can be really flattering. Especially with a bardot neckline like this one. This dress has since sold out but the same print can be found on their tea dress version here.

The fluffy knit that looks blue but is apparently grey 

I'm baffled too. It's blue right? Now sold out but a sneak peek available in top right hand image

Itsy bitsy teenie weenie polka dot bikini

What's better than polka dots? Rainbow polka dots! I love the BlueBellGray essence of the watercolour polka dots on this bikini set which help transform a simple white bikini to something much more special. Currently in the sale with discounts within the 49-58% range, it's definitely tempting! 

Which items are your favourites?

You may also like: 11 things filling my ASOS basket lately


Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Future plans for our dining room // a dining room mood board

A slightly different approach to my hallway mood board as unlike the hallway, the dining room transformation is already under way! You can follow progress on my extension here on Instagram stories. 

THE PREVIOUS DINING ROOM

The previous kitchen diner was a lovely bright space with a large picture window framing the view of the garden, a galley kitchen one side of the room, a peninsula divider, and IKEA cabinetry fitted into the fireplace alcove on the other side of the room with translucent doors which bounced the light around further, as did glossy marble effect floor tiles. This room was magnolia like all other rooms of the house (the previous owner's work).

PROBLEM POINTS

The marble floor tiles although beautiful, were largely white with grey veining so showed every speck of dirt and had zero practicality. The dining part of the kitchen diner was really compact. The previous owner's wooden dining table (which he took with him) ate up all the space so we opted for a glass dining table to give the illusion of space. But even with a glass table, the space was still tight. We hosted eight for a dinner party once and it was pretty snug. Thinking ahead to the future, we knew there was no space for the pitter patter of little feet to run around in.

IDEAS

We wanted to create a contemporary look room but at the same time, we are heavily influenced by French style. We love visiting Versailles and all manner of historical stately homes, so were after a similar statement floor to give our characterless house some, well, character. We pick up a lot of inspiration from French bistros and restaurants and seeing as we haven't been doing a whole lot of that since the global pandemic(!) we wanted to bring that essence home to enjoy every day. 

FUTURE PLANS FOR THE DINING ROOM

Dining room mood board / Future plans for our dining room


Flooring - Wooden herringbone flooring was high on my wish list...until I found out how much it costs. Laying that aesthetically pleasing pattern takes time and labour can cost as much as the actual flooring (essentially doubling your cost), if not more. Also being in lockdown we couldn't go out and look at flooring, and there was no way I was blindly buying flooring online without seeing it or touching it first. Also after ordering samples, I learnt that the colours online never quite look the same IRL. In the end we opted for a wood effect tile (easier to maintain plus suitable for use with underfloor heating). We chose the above criss cross pattern which interlocks and creates one large pattern. It won't be everyone's cup of tea I'm sure, but for us it reminded us of French bistrots, French chateaux and French parquet flooring. I was pretty nervous as I hadn't seen anyone else with this flooring, but have zero regrets. It makes the room. 

Lighting - The navy blue chandelier that came with the house was a little school, but I did ask the builder to save it as I had another plan for it. Turns out he didn't save it (doh). When it came to replacing the light, I wanted to warm up the decor a little with a gold or brass light fitting. A Next light fitting I loved went out of stock and any Tom Dixon lighting was out of the question due to cost (sob). I love sputnik lighting but Mr Curiouser and Curiouser wasn't so sure. Turns out we are polar opposites when it comes to opinions on lighting. The one and only light we agreed on was this beauty from MADE. It's contemporary, it's brass, it doesn't have millions of annoying bulbs to change and having LEDs makes it a lot more efficient to run. Plus the shape mimicks the flooring and our dining table. 

Table - We already own the above table which was purchased to give the illusion of space in our old kitchen diner. The glass is good and thick so deals with heat well, and any spills can be wiped up easily. This will likely be replaced in the future for an extendable table now we have more space. Maybe a nice wooden number. 

Seating - Our Next dining chairs have seen better days. I feel like the cats sense my frustration with them and are 'helping' by ripping them to shreds. In the short term I'm thinking of investing in some velvet chair covers like these (colour still TBC) or having a go at upholstering them myself. But long term I would like to invest in some restaurant style bench seating to create that cafe / bistrot feel. I have already bookmarked pink and blue velvet chairs from Danetti (as above) to create a more relaxed dining experience with friends and family. Our new extension isn't one of these massive open plan kitchen / dining / living room affairs, so having a dining bench or sofa would make this a versatile space.

Decoration - The fireplace is the main focus of the room and sits alongside the dining table. The previous chimney breast was a crooked affair and has now been made good. It's currently white to contrast against our dark cupboards but in the future I'd like to cover this with a statement wallpaper like this floral design and add a wooden mantel and an industrial style mirror like this or a circular mirror. The void in the fireplace used to hold our booze collection but I'm planning to switch this out for a hurricane vase to display lit candles or pampas grass. I also want to incorporate some greenery in big pots like this and maybe some trailing plants like ivy on the alcove cupboards to provide a link to the garden. The dining room wall is also plain white for now but a future project is injecting some character with panelling and getting some artwork up. 

Storage - My vision was to replace the IKEA cupboards with something special and feeling inspired by Versailles' Hall of Mirrors, I was after mirrored cupboard doors. I had a specific company in mind and contacted them with the alcove measurements and asked for a quote. The sales rep I spoke to never got back to me. Their social media team promised they would chase this up for me. Still nothing. When said company lost access to their Instagram account and wanted support re-building their social media following, I asked if their level of customer service would be any better on this new account. They were horrified that I'd been ignored all this time and were ready to help me THEN but by that stage, the new cupboards were already in so they'd lost my business. Whilst I'd still love to have mirrored doors in the future, I at least now know which company to avoid! The cupboards that have been fitted are disappointing if I'm honest. I used to store tall items like the ironing board and the vacuum cleaner and there is a non adjustable shelf so I can no longer store these items there. And in terms of the look, they feel very flat. My future project is to try and mock up the mirrored look in some capacity or try applying my own panelling to get the look of this Maisons du Monde wardrobe (dark interiors for the win!)

Which items are your favourites?

Friday, 22 January 2021

Money diary // Christmas without a kitchen and goodbye Matalan

MONDAY

We are a few months into building works and have no kitchen so we've lost our sink, cooker and washing machine. All during a global pandemic. We've had to completely change the way we cook and what we eat. We did once wonder if we'd constantly be getting takeways but we've mostly managed to avoid this and have been really behaved. It is undisputedly a lot cheaper cooking yourself than ordering takeway or eating out. 

It's been especially tough without a washing machine. Luckily we know of a great little laundrette with marvelous rates. Otherwise known as my family ;) We've got into a little routine as I don't want to be hounding them every week. We meet up every 2 weeks for a socially distanced swap (dropping the dirty, collecting the clean) however lockdown has since put a stop to that.

Being the amazing people that they are, they have brought over boxes of food (well, pre-lockdown) so we have some easy meals that we can microwave. To date we have had a veggie curry, beef stew, dhaal, a moroccan fish stew and tonight we have meatballs.

Today I order the next batch of birthday cards for birthdays this month. I'm still doing the surveys in my spare time to go towards our card fund. It's usually peanuts but there are occasionally some gems when you can earn a nice amount for only a few minutes of your time.

One of the biggest joys of 2020 was how I re-connected with one of my good friends. We'd sadly lost touch over the years but there are some friendships that are meant to be and it's like no time has passed at all. With her birthday card and Christmas card already in the mail, I order her a little something for her to open on her birthday. 

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Greetings cards - £4.58
Birthday gift - £22.00
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TOTAL
£26.58
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TUESDAY

Today we tried our first ever slow cooker dhaal. It was such an effortless recipe. Yellow split peas and a variety of other ingredients and spices into the slow cooker before work in the morning and then after work, hey presto! It had a bit of bite to it so I may soak the dried peas overnight next time, but flavour wise, it tasted pretty authentic and was chuffed to bits with it. 

My find of the day: TeaPigs (bear with me).

TeaPigs and me go way back. I once received a box of their rhubarb and ginger tea at a blogger event in a goodie bag. I don't even like rhubarb but this tea is seriously good. I also got my sister into them too and seeing as she doesn't do tea in any capacity, it's the ultimate compliment. 

The problem is that you never see this particular flavour at the supermarket. So starting last year, I started ordering directly from the Teapigs website here as it was the only place I could find it. 

This time last year I bought my sister some but also some different flavours for the office to bulk up the order as it's a minimum £15 spend for free delivery.

This year they are doing a job lot of tea in a bundle offer. Monetary wise it sounds like a lot to be spending on tea, but as I have £10 left in my budget for my sister, I can give half the boxes at Christmas which will keep her going until her birthday when she can have the next lot as part of her birthday gift.

Admittedly it's nicer to receive the tin as a gift, but the tin is less good value for money (and she has already has a tin from me from another time), so boxes it is.

When I ordered this time last year one of my favourite flavours was Apple and Cinnamon so imagine my joy when I found this great hack.

Basically if you order from Tea Pigs and have a basket of £15 or more, if you add a box of x15 Apple and Cinnamon tea bags and enter the promo code APPLE, you get that box free.

Last year I added on a box of these for myself and I could again this year - but this time they were FREE

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A LOT OF TEA - £22.94
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TOTAL
£22.94
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WEDNESDAY

Christmas gift wise I haven't gone too crazy this year. I started a spreadsheet last year to manage my spending and adopted it again this year. With the pandemic, there is a lot of financial uncertainty and I didn't want to stretch myself in case either of us are out of work. Plus we're regularly paying installments for building works which is a pretty signifcant drain on the finances(!).

I did a lot of my shopping earlier in the year and made use of sales and Black Friday to make my money stretch further. I also sourced discount codes and used TopCashBack where I could (really recommend signing up if you haven't already!). Some sites I hadn't ordered from before so could use their new customer discount code. If you already have an account, you can always get around this by setting up a new account with a new email address.

I also recommend shopping around. I ordered some chocolate to form part of Mr Curiouser and Curiouser's Christmas gift and found it cheaper on the Next website than directly through Hotel Chocolat - weird!

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TOTAL
£0.00
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THURSDAY

I've been really disappointed with some of the delivery services lately. I ordered a few gifts from Marks & Spencer and at checkout was asked if I wanted to reduce carbon emissions and receive as one delivery rather than multiple parcels (always yes). Despite ticking this box, I received my order in 4 or 5 parcels. A couple of parcels contained a single (small) item nestled amongst a crazy amount of packaging. I'm sure you can understand how annoying it is to answer the door every day and all times of the day, not to mention incredibly wasteful in terms of cardboard boxes and packaging. There are so many companies that need to work on their eco footprint. 

We continue to cook in bulk, freeze leftovers, and defrost the batches we made pre-building works here (still going strong!)

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TOTAL
£0.00
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FRIDAY

Ok, so Matalan has overtaken Marks & Spencer in the irritation department. My parcel came in the nick of time before Christmas but I discover that they have sent slippers with two left feet and also that an item is missing. I ordered pyjamas a gift where you had to order the top and bottom components separately. I ordered a silky camisole, trousers and also shorts so it was interchangeable for different times of the year. The trousers and shorts turned up, the top did not. When I reported the missing item, I got told it was now out of stock. So I now have an complete set that I can no longer give as a gift. If I was in-store and the top wasn't there, I wouldn't have bought the trousers and shorts. Same for online. If their stock levels were accurate on their website, I wouldn't have ordered half the set without the top. 

Matalan customer services have been an absolute nightmare and are unwilling to help. There is a no returns label in the parcel so I would have to pay to return the items even though the error was on their side. This is ridiculous out of principle. I have been shielding for the sake of my family and given the pandemic, I don't feel comfortable going to a post office right now. 

Customer services 'helpfully' stated that I could return the items to store (again going outside) which is nonsense given there is a national lockdown and stores are currently closed. Also I don't have a store near to me which is why I always shop online. Matalan customer services have since stopped responding to me. I am done with this ridiculous company. With so many companies going under since the pandemic, you would have thought that customer satisfaction and maintaining company reputation would have been of upmost importance right now. Goodbye Matalan. 

____________________

TOTAL
£0.00
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SATURDAY

One of my favourite discoveries of the year has been jerk chicken wraps. I ordered a Levi Roots meal kit in an online shop and fell in love with his Reggae Reggae sauce which is a sweet BBQ sauce with the heat of Scotch bonnet chillies. The meal kit is much like a fajita kit. It contains wraps, sauce and a sachet of seasoning which you stir-fry with your protein source and veg. The jerk seasoning in the kit was disappointing and didn't taste of much so I was determined that I could re-create a tastier version for less (meal kit £3.30). I used chicken and veg I already had and bought wraps (95p), jerk seasoning (90p) and the star of the show, Reggae Reggae sauce (£1.50). Whilst these incredients exceed the price of the kit, you only need a small amount of the jerk seasoning and Reggae Reggae sauce (especially the latter which is spicy) so it equates to a low cost per use each time. Meaning that it's overall much cheaper than the meat kit (AND a lot tastier). Warning, if you're a chilli wuss like me, trial a few drops of the Reggae Reggae sauce first - it is HOT!

___________________

Tortilla wraps - £0.95
Jerk seasoning - £0.90
Reggae Reggae sauce - £1.50
____________________

TOTAL
£3.35
____________________

SUNDAY

Today I'm inconsolable as we learn we can't spend Christmas with the family. It's the first Christmas since my birth that I won't be with them and it's really hitting me hard. With the year we've had, it was something I was really looking forward to. 

I posted on social months ago pleading for people not to take risks and be stupid and cancel Christmas for everyone. And look what happened. I've seen it all. The people who have one 'bubble' one day and a different one the next. Our neighbours who constantly had friends over during lockdown. Whilst they're not British, if you choose to go and live in another country, you need to abide by that country's lockdown rules. Large groups of people in London not social distancing the eve before a new enforcement. People who went on UK mini breaks during UK lockdown when they should have been home (travel is a privilege not a right!). 2020 was the year that highlighted those with intelligence who are sensible and those that are godamn stupid. And sadly we have more of the latter in this country. 

I made so many sacrifices in 2020 hoping things would get better. I listened to the guidelines. We barely saw our friends and family. Some of my best friends gave birth and I haven't been able to meet their babies. I haven't physically been to a supermarket since before the first lockdown in March 2020. I haven't travelled. I stayed at home. I took extra care of myself so I could step in to help my vulnerable and at risk family if anything was to happen to them. 

It felt like a year of sacrifices for a non Christmas. We still don't have a kitchen so can't even cook a roast here. I have preemptively ordered a gammon, turkey and a beef joint for Christmas, all which can be popped into the slow cooker. I may not be able to do roast turkey or roast beef, but this year will be an alternative sort of Christmas with pulled turkey in brioche buns and slow cooked Italian beef ragu with lots of herbs. Not the same, but we will make it work.

Today we had a lovely food hamper delivered which really lifted my spirits. Turns out my Mum ordered it way back in March as she was so sure we'd all be separated at Christmas (turns out she was right!). I am even more excited by the fact that it's an Aldi Christmas hamper. I love Aldi. 

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TOTAL
£0.00
____________________

TOTAL FOR THE WEEK
£52.87
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The festive season can be an expensive time with night outs and drinks and catch ups but lockdown put a stop to all of that. Money was saved from not having to commute and also by spreading the cost of Christmas and buying gifts across the year rather than having a big bill in December or money woes in January. 

Hope you are well and safe and healthy and sending you much love xxx

Writing it all out like this does make the little things hit home. If you decide to give this money diary a go yourself - or have any money saving tips - do let me know in the comments below!


Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Friday, 13 November 2020

Money diary // building works and life without a kitchen

MONDAY

Building works have started after months of waiting. The main annoyance is that because our charming neighbours got party wall surveyors involved, the foundations of the build have had to be changed which meant we lost our kitchen immediately rather than later down the line. I wouldn't recommend living without a kitchen to anyone. I really miss having an oven. It means things like pies are out of the question. Which is ludricious during the autumn winter months, if you ask me.

Sure, I could buy ready meals and takeaways during this time, but I really want to limit doing this. Ready meals can be full of salt and sugar, plus I question the nutritional value of say the Hearty Food Co. range at Tesco which costs a tiny 69p. How much meat is that spaghetti bolognese actually going to contain?! And takeaways can really add up. As much as I love pizza, I'd much rather make my own as takeaway pizza is extortionate and is it just me, but are they getting more and more stingy with toppings? If I pay for toppings, I want toppings damnit!

So for the last month or so, we made use of our kitchen whilst we had it, and made meals in bulk which went straight into the freezer. This gives us easy meals, saves a bit of money and unlike ready meals, we know exactly what went into each meal. A fully extensive list of what we made:

  • x8 portions of lentil ragu
  • x6 portions of veggie lasagne
  • x2 portions of veggie bolognese
  • x6 portions of cottage pie
  • x6 portions of gnocchi bake

... and then we ran out of space in our freezer! It won't last us for the entire 3-4 months, but it's a start.

We also cooked up a cauliflower curry and a potato and black eyed bean stew which we had to keep in the fridge because the freezer wasn't having it. Other than that, we also have leftover stirfry and leftover fish stew. Organised much?

We have some of the black eyed bean stew today for lunch. It doesn't taste anywhere near as good as my Mum's even though I followed the recipe. But nothing that some seasoning can't fix. For dinner we have the leftover beef stir fry with rice. 

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TOTAL
£0.00
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TUESDAY

Today the back of the house has come off and the house is starting to feel draughty. I find an old tin of ratatouille which is best before August 2020 but I find that tins last forever. It's a cold day so the soup-like consistency works a treat for lunch, although saying that, the ratatouille is nowhere near as good as the homemade one I attempted here. I serve with cous cous which may become one of our staples because all you need is a kettle. 

The only expense I had today was my monthly phone bill. Just £6 with GiffGaff (sign up here and receive free £5 credit when you activate your SIM). The beauty of being based at home for most of this year has been that I haven't used any data and constantly connect to the home wifi. And rather than making phone calls, I'm mostly using Zoom, Microsoft Teams and all manner of vid tech, all through my laptop rather than my phone. These changes have allowed me to slash my phone bill to the cheapest possible monthly tarif. 

Cauliflower curry for dinner. The recipe has spinach in it but we're all out of spinach so this time we use the cauliflower leaves instead and it's a revelation. Never throw out your cauliflower leaves - they're the best bit! The disadvantage of cooking in the lounge is the smell. Now the whole room smells of curry. 

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GiffGaff - £6.00
____________________

TOTAL
£6.00
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WEDNESDAY

We have leftover fish stew for lunch with our own home grown tomatoes and if you thought the curry smell last night was bad... Come evening I've lit an autumnal apple and cinnamon candle to drive the smell away. Or mask it at least. 

Later we have gnocchi bake for dinner. Obviously the cheese isn't crispy because of the freezing process, but all the flavours are still there. I'd usually use mozzarella but I was all out so I used extra mature cheddar instead and it added so much more flavour. Definitely a keeper. 

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TOTAL
£0.00
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THURSDAY

We order an extension lead for our makeshift kitchen and a shelving unit as everything we need to cook with is currently in a sea of boxes and it's not an ideal arrangement. The shelving unit will be a makeshift larder for now and later moved to the office. We were always planning on ordering a shelving unit for the office, but it means it gets an added use now.

We have the last of the potato and black eyed bean stew for lunch. And with that, our fridge is looking decidedly empty. For dinner it's a game of freezer lottery and we end up having cottage pie. 

___________________

Extension lead - £13.99
Shelving unit - £52.26
____________________

TOTAL
£66.25
____________________

FRIDAY

I get paid weekly and wake up to find the money in my account. It feels like more money leaves your account than goes in during building works so this is a nice change!

Today the shelving and extension lead arrive. Our hallway is now 50% fridge freezer and 50% cardboard boxes. 

We both have a defrosted roll from the freezer for lunch today with the last of our sandwich meat as we're both working through lunch today so it's a grab and go affair. For dinner it's another day of freezer lottery (veggie lasagne this time).

____________________

TOTAL
£0.00
____________________

SATURDAY

Our next shop is coming next week and we're getting really low on supplies. We use the last of our bread from the freezer for toasted cheese sandwiches and watch a scary movie over lunch. Because it'd be criminal not to on Halloween!

Today we build the shelving unit and it makes a world of difference. Now we can physically see all our plates and cups and ingredients. No more guessing which box contains the herbs and spices! 

We have a little table top hob for these next few months as we didn't want to be eating microwave meals for 3 months. Tonight is our first experiment with it so have something super lazy just so we can test that it's working. We heat up a Pataks curry sauce and add white fish and serve with naan bread. Simple but does the job.

____________________

TOTAL
£0.00
____________________

SUNDAY

Feeling a little more confident with the hob, we attempt an omelette for breakfast using black olives and extra mature cheddar cheese. We're out of milk and bread so we're having to be a little more creative with our breakfasts until we get our next shop. Eggs are a blessing at times like these. 

As we're out of bread, we have cheese and biscuits for lunch. I alternate between sundried tomato & balsamic chutney and a mild chilli chutney, both of which I find in the back of the fridge and are still well within date (expiry 2021).

For dinner we brave the portable hob again and try our first properly from scratch meal (fajitas). I have frozen peppers in the freezer from when Tesco made a mistake with an order, so it gives me an excuse to use those up finally, and I defrost some wraps I have in the freezer. The meal works a treat and we portion off some of our homemade spice mix to use next week for tacos.

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TOTAL
£0.00
____________________

TOTAL FOR THE WEEK
£72.25
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A big part of saving lately has been:

  • planning meals in advance and bulk cooking
  • avoiding takeaways and over-priced ready meals
  • rummaging through cupboards and the freezer for veg and pulses to bulk out meals
  • striving for zero waste and using everything up before buying new
  • being based at home resulting in a reduced phone bill and zero commuting costs


Writing it all out like this does make the little things hit home. If you decide to give this money diary a go yourself - or have any money saving tips - do let me know in the comments below!


MY PREVIOUS MONEY SAVING DIARIES


Photo by Janine Meuche on Unsplash

Monday, 2 November 2020

Money diary // home-grown vegetables and a largely vegetarian week

MONDAY

One of my biggest annoyances is food waste. People who buy more food than they need. People who bin uneaten food when leftovers can form other meals. A large basis of my meal planning revolves around use of my zero waste spreadsheet where I examine what has expired or is expiring soon. My spreadsheet flags sweet potato, spinach and butternut squash. As the spinach is still in good condition and hasn't wilted too much, I decide this would be a good basis for a vegetarian salad. I find some lentils in the cupboard and we always have a variety of cheeses in the fridge, so locate some feta cheese. I chop the sweet potato and butternut squash into cubes and roast for 45 minutes, turning them often. Once cooked I stir these into the raw spinach, feta cheese and cooked lentils and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Simple but delicious!

Butternut squash, sweet potato, lentil and feta salad
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TOTAL
£0.00
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TUESDAY

I love ratatouille but I've never made my own before which is criminal now I've learnt how easy it is! We had an accumulation of home-grown produce which screamed ratatouille. Tomatoes from our garden and a huge rounded courgette from my parent's garden. Our pepper plant, although growing, only has little miniature peppers on it at the moment, so I had to use shop bought peppers for now. I roasted the vegetables in olive oil and oregano for almost a hour, regularly turning. I then pan fried some garlic, added tinned tomatoes and incorporated the cooked veg and heated through. It's a relatively low effort meal but also cheap and healthy! 

Roasted mediterranean vegetables

Ratatouille from scratch!
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TOTAL
£0.00
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WEDNESDAY

As we prepare for building works to start, the initial plan was to have the extension built up with the knock through being relatively last minute so we could keep use of our kitchen. Due to party wall difficulties and nightmare neighbours, the foundations for our extension have had to be tweaked and with that, it means that the old and new floors will have to be done in one - meaning we will lose access to a kitchen right from the start. This has been a massive blow as this means we will be entering the colder months without a kitchen. As of now, I am starting to make and freeze meals ready like lasagne, bolognese, pies and curries that can easily be defrosted and warmed through in the microwave. 

I've been incredily behaved with clothes shopping this year as I don't fancy the faff with returns. I try to talk myself out of most things and then only proceed if it's a 'safe' buy (in other words guaranteed to fit). One thing I've been obsessing over lately is a beautiful autumnal mustard coloured sweater from Tu at Sainsburys. It was only £18 which is pretty good going considering that a similar item at ASOS or Topshop would set you back £30+. I resisted, telling myself I didn't need it. Then one day it was on sale and I knew how gutted I would be if I logged on the next day and it was gone. So I took a gamble and the sizing is perfect. It's slouchy, comfortable and an absolute dream to work from home in. 

___________________

Knitwear - £13.50
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TOTAL
£13.50
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THURSDAY

My money diary I did in association with The Nottingham has gone live and you can read this here. I really recommend writing a money diary yourself, even if it's in a notebook and kept private. I find that writing it all down helps rein me in. Mind you, being home so much since the COVID-19 outbreak has really helped with expenditure as I'm no longer doing the commute and am avoiding the usual temptations.

Tonight we have bolognese with courgetti using courgettes grown from our own garden. It's so much ligher than spaghetti and a great way to get more of your five-a-day.

Courgetti using our home-grown courgettes

The size of this courgette!!
____________________

TOTAL
£0.00
____________________

FRIDAY

I've started at a new job lately and come 5.30pm I don't have the enthusiasm to cook anything too complicated which is where the slow cooker has come into its own. As we are facing a future without an oven once the building works start, I have grabbed a large sharing pizza from Tesco. I usually buy a cheaper pizza from Tesco but as it's our last home cooked pizza for some months, I choose one from the Finest range. It's still a lot cheaper than Pizza Hut or Dominos. We wouldn't usually buy sides but they currently have a meal deal where you can get pesto flatbread thrown in for not much more. Even though the pizza is vegetarian and minimalist, it's packed with flavour. In all honesty, I probably wouldn't bother with the flatbread again - garlic bread for the win! With that we have a movie night and watch Enola Holmes on Netflix (recommend!)

___________________

Pizza meal deal - £5.00
____________________

TOTAL
£5.00
____________________

SATURDAY

I see a recipe in an interiors magazine for frittata muffins which sound amazing. I don't have any spring greens or peas like the suggested recipe, but you can use any vegetables in a recipe like this. I don't have a whole lot of veg left as we are due a shop next week, so I use spinach and mushrooms which I cook up with garlic in a pan. I then mix in a bowl with 4 eggs and some grated cheddar cheese. I pour into a greased muffin tin and bake. It takes a lot longer than the recipe says it will, so I watch it like a hawk and prod with a metal skewer until I'm happy it's cooked through. And the result? SO SO GOOD. Perfect for picnics, breakfast and lunch boxes.

____________________

TOTAL
£0.00
____________________

SUNDAY

The clearing of the kitchen and prep work for the extension has officially begun. And with that, we've started ordering bits and pieces to help us survive in a world without a kitchen and more specifically a sink, dishwasher and oven. For now we've ordered a washing up bowl and a drying rack. My partner is all about Joseph Joseph so ordered this washing up bowl (yes my eyes are watering too). I was adament I didn't want some white plastic coated monstrosity for the drying rack and found this copper drying up rack which is supposedly anti-rust. 

"Do we need a copper drying up rack?", my partner asks.

"Do we need a £36 washing up bowl?" I fire back at him

And with that, nothing more was said about the copper drying up rack.

___________________

Washing up bowl - £36.00
Drying rack - £15.99
____________________

TOTAL
£51.99
____________________

TOTAL FOR THE WEEK
£70.49
____________________

It's been weird seeing my outgoings shrink, but then again, I guess it makes sense. I no longer have commuting costs or naughty station purchases like breakfast or hot drinks. I'm spending a lot less on clothes than I usually would. It's become an occasional treat once every few months. Some days I feel down and in need a little pick me up, but I'm trying to get out of this mindset. I've been growing my own veg this year and you can really taste the difference, particularly with the ratatouille this week. Still not sure how I feel about the washing up bowl purchase, but one word comes to mind. Ouch.

Writing it all out like this does make the little things hit home. If you decide to give this money diary a go yourself - or have any money saving tips - do let me know in the comments below!

Friday, 23 October 2020

6 quick and easy ways to transform your kitchen

 AD | This is a sponsored post but all opinions are my own.

We are spending more time at home than ever before, and for many of us, the more we are at home, the more certain rooms begin to bug us. Cue the onset of questions. Why has this room not been decorated yet? Why did the previous home owner think that magnolia was a good idea? How have I lived with [insert grotty feature here] for so long? 

Now is as good a time as any to assess what you have to work with, the funds you have at your disposal, and how you want to transform your surroundings. But for the sake of this piece, we're going to focus on the kitchen and six little things that will make the world of difference.

Scandi kitchen

Give your splashback a makeover

Does the splashback behind your cooker and sink look dated? Or have you inherited a style that isn't practical or very 'you'? Changing your splashback is one of the quickest and easiest ways of making an impact. Cover unsightly wall tiles with tile decals (also known as tile stickers) or alternatively paint them with tile paint to give them a new lease of life. For dark or north facing rooms, paint in a lighter colour like a bright white which will help bounce the light around. If you currently have tiles with white grout lines, update with a more practical colour like black or dark grey using grout paint or a grout pen.

Find your light

If your kitchen is north facing or doesn't have a skylight, roof lantern, or bifold doors, you may find that light is in short supply. For a less gloomy room to cook in, look at decorating in light shades like bright whites or soft greys and come up with a lighting scheme. A good kitchen lighting scheme is all about layering with different lighting for different zones. Spot lights are tried and tested and work in all manner of kitchens. Target lighting in specific food prep zones like strip lighting under kitchen wall cabinets and pendant lights which can add extra interest to a kitchen island. Be sure to look at models with LED bulbs which are more efficient and can be 80% cheaper to run.

Treat yourself to new kitchen accessories

Something as little as a new tap can help transform the look of any kitchen. Why not switch out a limescale covered tap that has seen better days for a highly coveted gold tap or black tap which are all over social media right now. Whilst some models can cost a pretty penny, try looking at IKEA or eBay for more budget friendly options as updating your kitchen doesn't have to be expensive. In a similar vein, stock up on new accessories like fun tea towelsoven gloves and tea and coffee containers. A simple change of accessories can inject a splash of colour, or bring a luxe element if you incorporate gold or copper accessories.

Give your kitchen units a face lift

This is another one of the easiest ways to make an impact. Prime and paint your kitchen units or else use chalk paint for an instant new look (do check this with your landlord first if you are renting!). Another way of achieving this is by covering your kitchen doors with vinyl, washi tape, or removable wallpaper. This being ideal for renters as you can always peel these off when you move out. Another quick and easy way of updating your kitchen units is by replacing your cupboard handles. Try cup handles for a classic and timeless look synonymous with shaker kitchens. Or maybe en vogue gold handles if you fancy something a little more modern.

Sticky back plastic is your friend

If your worktops have seen better days but you don't feel comfortable having someone come and replace them at this time (and I wouldn't blame you), try a temporary fix in the form of vinyl or sticky back plastic. If you like marble worktops, it's an easy way to achieve the look for less. Sticky back plastic is one of my hero products. I used for a marble table here which I'm currently sitting at and using as a desk while I'm working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Next I want to spray paint the legs gold (spray paint being another great quick kitchen hack!)

Get patterned floor tiles for a fraction of the price

If your flooring doesn't bring you joy or is a pain to clean, it's time to act. Update drab floor tiles with a tile stencil kit. The best way of achieving a good finish is dabbing paint onto the stencil with a sponge and layering the colour on gradually rather than using a paint roller or paint brush. Or for a quicker fix, try using peel and stick floor tile decals. There are tons of pretty patterned floor tile designs out there at the moment which can help take any kitchen flooring from drab to fab.

Have you made any changes to your kitchen since COVID-19?

This post contains affiliate links. While we earn a small commission for products purchased through these links, it doesn’t change the price you pay in any way, nor will it cost you to click through to view any of these items. Affiliate links help keep Curiouser and Curiouser running so we can continue to bring you free content. Thank you for your continued support

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Monday, 12 October 2020

How to maintain a better work-life balance when working from home

Working from home can be a double edged sword. Sure, you no longer have the commute or need to set your alarm at stupid o'clock any more, but it can also be really lonely. Whilst you can still chat away to your heart's content on Whatsapp or Slack with your colleagues, it's just not the same as being face-to-face. Working from home once or twice a week can be respite from the commute, but for an extended period of time like it has been with the COVID-19 outbreak, it can be increasingly hard. You miss work lunches. You miss Fridays in the pub. There are so many things you want to see and do, but are advised not to. You are home so much that the work-life balance is starting to blur around the edges and you no longer have that separation or discipline. So how do you get out of a funk like this? Try following these simple pointers to help promote a healthy work-life balance when working from home.

Tips for a better work-life balance when working from home

Designate a specific working zone

Whilst it may be tempting to take your laptop into the main living area with the TV on in the background, don't do it. Go hole yourself away in a separate room where you usually wouldn't be. At the end of the working day, remove work emails and alerts from your phone (if applicable), close the doors on the space you worked in, and walk away. This is now your time.

Come up with a plan for co-working arrangements

If you live with a partner, friends or family, what happens if you only have one home office space? Should you both work in the same room? Everybody works differently so it's best to talk this through with your partner / friends / family and be honest wth each other. Here we have a study with a long desk which is perfect for two people working alongside each other, however due to the nature of my partner's work (noisy and on video call constantly), it just wouldn't work. For me to perform at my best, I have to put myself in another room, on another floor. If you have children and they have gone back to school, plan a rota of who is picking up from school on which days and if pre-school, come up with a rota for childcare so you can avoid video call interruptions of this scale and hilarity.  

Don't forget to take breaks

I've heard so many stories of people forgetting to take lunch breaks when they work from home, or only grabbing a quick bite to eat. It can be so easy to lose track of time when you are deep in a task. Look after yourself and have a proper nutritional lunch and give yourself the full hour. Besides lunch, get up every so often to walk around and grab some water or a cup of tea. Stay hydrated and keep your body and mind active. I cannot tell you the number of times I have been stuck on something, had a break and a quick walk away from my desk, and then the solution has come to me instantly.  

Do your hours - nothing more, nothing less

This kind of falls in-line with the previous point. Yes, have breaks and a full hour for lunch, but at the same time, don't abuse the system and take an extended lunch break because 'no one can see me'. Whilst a longer lunch is heavenly, it can make it harder to get back into the swing of things, resulting in less motivation and productivity. At the same time, don't overdo it at home or do more hours than you are paid. I am incredibly guilty of this and have been known to start work at 8-something rather than 9.30am and then work past 5.30pm in the past. Finish on time and avoid working late into the night so you get the time you are entitled to in order to unwind properly before starting all over again the next day.

Make sure you have the right access

Nothing sucks more than working from home and discovering that you don't have the right access / permissions / equipment. This in itself will set you back. Make sure you have everything in place ready ahead of working from home.

Get dressed

Whilst it's incredibly tempting to stay in your pyjamas all day, avoid doing this to better your work-life balance. The act of getting dressed sets you up ready for the day and puts you in the right mindset. When the working day is over, go and get changed. Change into either looser, more comfortable clothing like joggers, or your pyjamas. This will help reinforce a sense of routine that work is done for the day and now it's you time.

Get up at a reasonable time

Whilst it's tempting to leave the alarm off completely or set it just before your official start time, don't do it. Logging onto work when you've just woken up isn't the one. If something complex comes in first thing that requires serious attention, imagine the headache that will come your way if you're not ready. When I work from home I usually allow myself an extra hour in bed - so my alarm is set for 7am rather than 6am - as I no longer have the commute. It is so important to have enough time to wake up fully and for much needed you time. Other than the essentials of showering and getting dressed, make sure you give yourself some quality time. Read the newspaper. Sit down and have a proper breakfast. Do a sudoku or morning yoga. Go for a run. Whatever you choose to do, get yourself into a routine and in no time at all, it will come naturally to you.

Try and get outside if you can

This stems from my point earlier about how sometimes taking a break and going for a walk can sometimes encourage new ideas. You don't even have to go far. Go down the road or around the corner. Spend some time in the garden (if you have one). Fresh air can be so invigorating and always perks me up if I'm having a bad mental health day.

The chair you use is so important

Don't let a poor chair be the cause of an early onset of back problems. If you are going to be working from home a lot (particularly with the COVID-19 outbreak), it's wise to invest in a decent chair. We have one decent work-from-home chair in the office which my partner uses, but if I'm home I find myself hopping about from chair to chair as the dining room chairs are only comfortable for so long. If you feel an ache in your back, act on it quickly and don't just 'put up with it'. Change your location and try another chair. Use extra cushions to support your back. If budget allows, order yourself an ergonomic chair or executive chair with padding and a fully supported back (I recently ordered myself this one and it's an absolute dream!). Some companies have a working from home allowance and can provision you with a chair and desk (or budget for them), so it's definitely worth asking around.

Give your day some structure

Start each day with a quick brainstorm of what needs to be done that day and create youself a To Do list. There is nothing more satisfying than ticking things off a To Do list (or is that just me?). Plus if your boss is checking up on you making sure you are actually working, you can come back with a whole host of things you've completed and be smug as. When you approach the end of your working day, if there is anything outstanding or to be rolled over to the next day, note it all down. This is beneficial in two ways. First, it's a weight off your mind and allows you to fully switch off that evening and not think about work. Secondly it means you have the makings of tomorrow's to do list already forming itself (WIN).

Do you have a good work-life balance when working from home?

This post contains an affiliate link. While we earn a small commission for products purchased through this link, it doesn’t change the price you pay in any way, nor will it cost you to click through to view any item. Affiliate links help keep Curiouser and Curiouser running so we can continue to bring you free content. Thank you for continuing to support Curiouser and Curiouser

Image credit: Roberto Nickson on Unsplash