Sunday, 31 January 2010

The Kitchen Cupboard

When I moved into my own flat at University the first thing I did was go cupboard shopping.

I bought all my stock items so that I could always find something to make. But everything I bought was necessary. Things for baking, tomatoes, beans etc. It was only when I moved in with my boyfriend, Matthew, that I started buying more herbs and spices.

You see to me, herbs and spices were just another added extra cost. An ingredient which I looked at and thought *an extra pound to my shopping bill for half a teaspoon of this? No thanks. I'm sure it'll be fine without it.* And I was right. It was fine. Not amazing, but fine.

But Matt did things differently. I remember him making a pasta sauce that was bursting with flavour - all because of herbs and spices that he had in his cupboard. It would have cost over a fiver to buy all those ingredients for that one dish, but because he'd bought them one by one over a period of time, now they were just there - waiting to be used. A pasta dish which would have cost nearly a tenner if I'd have got each and every thing specifically cost us the price of some mince.

Always, always have things in stock. If you pick up 1 or 2 items every week you'll have a stock cupboard full of things just waiting to make your food more interesting. And when food tastes more interesting - it tastes more expensive. And that makes you feel as though you're eating luxury rather than bog standard I-eat-because-if-I-don't,-I'll-die food. Plus, you'll find that all those recipes which you thought were expensive - aren't.

Some things may be obvious to have in stock, but as Jamie Oliver has proven in his Food Revolution, not everyone sees a stock cupboard as an obvious thing to have.

So without trying to be condescending, my kitchen cupboard list is as follows:

Chilli Powder
Dried Chilli Flakes
Mixed Herbs
Cayenne Pepper
Bay Leaves
Vegetable Oil
Olive Oil
Tomato Puree
Tomato Ketchup
Worcester Sauce
Dark Soy Sauce
Arborio Rice
Basmati Rice
Brown Rice
Chopped Tomatoes
Tinned Sweetcorn
Stock Cubes
Gravy Granules
Plain Flour
Self-Raising Flour
Bicarbinate of Soda
Baking Powder
Granulated Sugar
Caster Sugar
Light Brown Sugar
Chocolate Spread
Peanut Butter
Dried Apricots
Cocoa Powder

(Things which aren't actually considered store cupboard items because of their shelf life, but which should be available are bread, eggs, milk and butter)

This is... a lot.. when you see it in a list. It's even more if you buy it all in one go. But if you buy each item one by one, and keep your kitchen cupboard stocked up - you should always be in a position to enhance any meal you've got going for you.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

The Five Golden Points

To live a life which seems far beyond your means, I find it is best to stick to the following areas.

The Home
Well Being

The home, to me, is the most important and most effective way of feeling as though you have more. A beautifully decorated home is relaxing, and makes you feel proud everytime you look at it. It gives guests a welcome atmosphere and they are likely to compliment it - especially if they are in a similar situation to yourself (job wise, a student etc).

The main excuses people tend to use for not having their homes looking beautiful are:
Not got enough money
I'm renting so can't do anything

I rent. I have so far lived in 3 rented properties and I have always managed to make the place beautiful.

I don't have a lot of money either - especially when I was a student - but I will show you ways to make a home homely without spending a small fortune.

Food is also something I find quite important. Good food makes us feel good. There is nothing satisfying about eating a ready meal or beans on toast, and learning how to make easy but impressive meals for yourself and your family is just giving you extra training for when you have dinner guests. It is also impressive to have a little bit extra in the cupboard just in case guests ever appear.

Entertaining, for me, is one of the top ways to give a good impression. Beautiful serving wear, bottles of wine on hand, snacks and a good atmosphere are the best way to make a guest feel comfortable and appreciate the warmth of your home. I find that having a home where people feel comfortable makes me feel happier, too.

Gifts don't have to be expensive - just thoughtful. And cheap homemade gifts say much more than '3 for 2 at Boots' gift sets without giving the impression that a cheap present was bought because that's exactly all it was - cheap.

And finally, if you can't convince yourself that you're better than your paycheck - who can you convince?! Pick-me-up treats and a positive attitude are all you need to show yourself that money is not the be all and end all - and that you can certainly live a glamourous, enviable life without having a bank manager as your best friend.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

How Did I Get This Way?

Growing up, I’ve always lived in a nice environment. I was fortunate enough to have a beautiful house to grow up in, and parents who have had very good taste. It came as no surprise then that when I moved to university, my parents took one look at my student digs and said they wouldn’t leave until they made it look presentable.

We didn’t do lots to change the place – just improved the major areas. New curtains, a rug to hide the awful carpet, and large sheets of paper to cover the notice board and turn it into a feature rather than a huge brown rectangle on the wall.

I think this was the beginning for my needing to live somewhere that looked pretty.

When I moved into my own flat in my second year, I did a similar thing. I hung artsy posters in frames rather than sticking them onto the walls with blue tac, and decided on a colour theme for each room. I bought tile stickers on ebay in an attempt to hide the hideous colours in the kitchen, and brought in colour with retro cute fridge magnets. Again, I changed the bright yellow and stained curtains for a more favourable pale green and moved all the furniture in the bedroom so I could fit in the wardrobe that was standing out-of-place in the hallway.

When people came to visit, they looked at the place in awe. How had I done this? Why did my flat look not at all ‘studenty’ and how on earth did I afford to do it? Well, I had moved stuff about, gone the extra mile to make it feel like a ‘home’, and didn’t actually spend a lot of money. In fact, I got all my bits and bobs from Au Naturale (which sadly there aren’t a lot of anymore) and generally when you get to the till, the total is a lot less than you expected!

The feeling I got from the positive comments made me think this was a worthwhile thing to do. I gave off the impression that I had a lot more money than everyone else when I had exactly the same. And this has stuck with me right until this very day – to give off the impression that I have more than I actually do – constantly budgeting, without feeling as though it’s affecting the quality of my life.

This is what I hope to bring to you.
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