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 the month including one for my Father-in-Law and his Father who both have 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. 

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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!

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Tortilla wraps - £0.95
Jerk seasoning - £0.90
Reggae Reggae sauce - £1.50
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TOTAL
£3.35
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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
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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

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