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
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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 some 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. 

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Extension lead - £13.99
Shelving unit - £52.26
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TOTAL
£66.25
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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).

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TOTAL
£0.00
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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.

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TOTAL
£0.00
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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
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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. 

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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!!
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TOTAL
£0.00
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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!)

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Pizza meal deal - £5.00
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TOTAL
£5.00
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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.

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TOTAL
£0.00
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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 husband 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 husband 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.

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Washing up bowl - £36.00
Drying rack - £15.99
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TOTAL
£51.99
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TOTAL FOR THE WEEK
£70.49
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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!