Monday, 31 May 2010

Shopping for the Week

It's a Monday morning and the sun is shining. I have my recipe books and magazines out and I have planned my meals for the week.

Spring and summer are quite difficult to plan food for. Matthew, despite being the world's thinnest man, eats huge portions and I'm afraid that light meals of any kind keep him hungry and make him grumpy. But I hate eating stodgy food in the warmer months. It's a bit of a pickle and I have to work hard to find meals to suit us well, without being the same thing we ate last week.

I have a freezer which is packed full of things that have been left unused, as well as cheap cuts of meat that were put in the day of purchase. I try not to buy desert or snacks of any kind, and lunches are generally sandwiches, baked potatoes and as I will have 4 pitta breads left over from the burgers this week, pitta breads with salad and hummous. Breakfast is cereal - any cereal which is on offer.

So! The following meals have been planned!

Creamy Courgette Carbonara
Falafel Burgers with Sweet Potato Chips
Beef and Noodle Stir Fry
Lemon and Garlic Turkey with Sauteed Potatoes
Pork Chops with Mash and Peas
Chilli with Rice or Salad

There are only 6, as chances are one of us will be out one evening and miss dinner. If not, we have a lot of potatoes and some mince in the freezer so we can just make a Shepherd's Pie.

All of this comes in at under £40 for the week. A safe budget, I feel, and one that allows me to eat decent food instead of rubbish. There is also quite a lot of meat in this week's menu but that's because I have a glut of beef and pork in the freezer which I bought weeks ago when it was on offer - always very handy to do if you have a few extra pennies as it saves you lots in the weeks to come.

If anyone would like the recipes for any of these dishes, please ask!

Sunday, 30 May 2010

My Student Digs

When I moved into my student flat it was pretty basic. Cream walls, wooden floor, and basic furniture. The curtains were the most vile colour of yellow that I had ever seen and were quickly ripped down and replaced with bargain pale green ones that I'd found at a clearance material shop. A cheap green rug was bought to match and I added some purple cushions for a bit of variety and a print to give the walls something.

I was happy with this set up for a while, but the room just felt a bit too clinical and empty. The amount of work I was doing meant I had to spend a lot of time at my desk and it was in my tiny bedroom, so I thought I'd have a bit of a change.

Putting the desk in the living room meant that I could enjoy it a bit more instead of being crammed in my bedroom. I purposefully left my computer at the desk to encourage me to NOT stay in bed whilst writing my essays and I added a small notice board and some ornaments to keep it looking interesting.

It felt cosy and that's what I wanted. Sometimes too much space isn't comfortable. And the best thing was - I didn't have to buy anything! I just moved stuff around to see where it fit best. I even got more space in my room to prance around in whilst checking out my clothes in the newly positioned full length mirror. Win all around.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Writing Letters

I'm not quite sure how I feel about Facebook. I like it, sure, but mostly because it's gossip and I like knowing what people are up to. But on the downside, people assume that I know what they're up to. I don't it to be assumed. I want to ask *so what are you up to these days?* and get an interesting response! But you can't do that these days. If they're not a friend - you 'obviously' hate them and they obviously hate you so you might as well not bother.

I only have 74 friends. Each and every person on my facebook list is someone I know and like. Not someone I sat next to in Maths, not a friend of a friend who I met once, and not people I worked with 4 years ago and haven't spoken to since. But it doesn't mean I wouldn't want to say hi if I bumped into them off the street.

Of course, I don't have 74 close friends. I have less than 10 close friends. And not one of them lives near me. The closest is maybe 200 miles away. The furthest, proabably 500-600 miles away. I love these people dearly but I cannot go and visit them often, and sometimes I'm just too busy to call or send a facebook messgae - but it doesn't mean I don't want to speak to them. So I want to communicate with them in a way that says *hey lady, I was thinking about you!* and the best way to do that is to write a letter.

Months ago I bought a stack of beautiful cards. I prefer cards to writing paper as they're more hardwaring and you get a pretty image on the front. I do like sending cards to friends that I have seen and immediately thought of them, but for when I just want to write one there and then, or don't have a few pounds to spare, I dip into my stash.

It makes such a good impression. And getting a card in the post shows thoughfulness, and time well spent - not a quick phone call when you've got a few minutes to spare.

And when you're low on free minutes - the price of a stamp is a much cheaper method of staying in touch.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

A New Fabric Shop?

There are a lot of fabric shops in Brighton. A lot. But I have searched through them and I can never find anything that I want. So much fabric and nothing that calls out to me. I couldn't make my table cloth because I couldn't find the right material. The same thing happened with some gifts I was going to make for a friend. And it annoys me a bit, because I know exactly what kind of fabric I want and I cannot for the life of me find it anywhere.

I had been flicking through websites trying to find free events that will be going on in the city for free and I came across an Quilt Making event. As something that interested me, I skipped on over to the website and have found their online shop (an online shop is a must for me - I do not like not knowing the general cost of something when I go into a shop as I hate the feeling of walking out because I cannot justify paying the amount shown). That is exactly the type of fabric I'm after. Good old patterned fabric. Sturdy fabric. Brightly coloured fabric.

So next weekend when I have a Saturday free, I shall take a wander down there and have a look at what they've got. I'm feeling all creative having recieved Katie's present yesterday and I really have to start channeling my energy into something other than watching Glee or Junior Apprentice.

I shall let you know how I get on and whether or not I will encourage you to order some pieces for yourself. If anyone has any sugestions for good quality cheap fabric in the UK then please let me know - I would be eternally grateful!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Homemade Presents

I got home from work this evening and there was a small package waiting for me.

I love post. Love post. It's very exciting when it's something that doesn't look as though it's bills related it. I opened it and was so surprised to see what was inside. 'Home Sweet Home' hearts from my friend Katie!!

Possibly the most beautiful house-warming gift I have ever received. Ever. I love them. The stitching, the buttons, the little charm on the second 'home' heart. So beautiful that I put them up in a prime position. On the side of my bookcase - visible for all to see and matching perfectly with the decorative items that sit proudly on display.

Personal gifts mean more to me than anything that a person could buy. They say 'I thought about you enough to put time and effort into something'.

In fact, only today I was looking in Velvet and saw things similar to this. I think I'm going to get some lavender out of the garden and make some lavender stuff hearts. I'm going to pretty this house up bit by bit.

And give out some lovely presents with all the extras that I make.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Friday, 21 May 2010

Serving Ware

I love dishes. And bowls. And glasses. And cake stands.

Number 1 reason is because they look so pretty! But the second reason is because they hide the packaging.

I don't like packaging. I don't like handing out bags of crisps to guests and getting them to dip their tortilla chips into a plastic pot of guacamole.

Serving ware is the ultimate way of making something that is cheap look presentable and thought out. I think a nice tray is a great investment - especially if your kitchen and livingroom isn't open plan. Imagine how nice it would be for you if you went to a friends house, and instead of her holding a bottle of wine under one arm and wine glass stems between all fingers, she walked in with a tray full of glasses poured and ready to drink. It costs about a fiver and makes a great impression for your guests, time and time again.

Shopping Lists

I like to do an online shop before actually heading out to the supermarket.

This sounds a bit strange, but it really does save me money. I try not to set a budget straight away, but instead flick through my recipe books and decide on what to have throughout the week. I like to vary what I eat and find that preparing a menu means that we don't have pasta twice in a row, or five days in a week with meals containing tinned tomatoes.

I aim to not repeat a dish with each of these ingredients more than twice a week: rice, pasta, mashed potatoes, roast potatoes, boiled potatoes, gnocchi. Otherwise it feels as though we've had no variation.

Then I go online and price up everything I need to buy. The good thing about doing this is that you see exactly how much you need to spend - and don't add in the naughty temptations. I then look at the amount it costs and allow myself to round up to the nearest £5. Then I go through and find any treats I'd like.

It makes you realise that you're not going to need the 2-for-£7 pizzas, and buy not buying the 2nd, you've probably got another £3 to spend on some ice-cream, or a bottle of wine, instead. Are you really going to use all the parmesan in that tub? Or are you better saving that 50p and just buying the small packet?

Remember - the shops want us to spend more. Don't deny yourself treats but don't buy things you don't need and will eventually waste.

I like to do my menu for the week on a Saturday afternoon. It's the one time of the week I get to myself and I curl up on my sofa with Saturday Kitchen on the telly and my recipe books strewn all over the floor. It's not at all stressful. Quite the opposite in fact. And looking at all those pictures in the books gets you really excited about the great food you'll be eating next week - and because you'll be looking forward to it, and know exactly what you're doing, you'll be less likely to think *eugh, I don't know what to do for dinner.... let's just get a chinese*... and blow £15.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Go Veggie

Last year, I watched a programme that changed the way I viewed meat.

I am not a vegetarian, nor am I going to write a lecture on how eating meat is bad. I love meat, and I will eat it. But now I've learnt that I don't have to eat it every day.

I have never liked the thought of cheap meat, but Britain's Really Disgusting Food made me make up my mind 100% that it was not something I would eat ever again. The thought of Mechanically Reclaimed Meat and other equally gross animal parts in foods made me want to be sick a little, and still does. I cannot go anyway near processed meats and bottom of the range choices.
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