Sunday, 6 June 2010

Shopping Trolley Snobbery

There's something about going shopping and having a trolley that is full of fresh veg and healthy food that makes me become a bit of a trolley snob when I go to the supermarket.

I hate seeing trolleys full of fizzy drinks, giant packets of crisps and ready meals. There is never an excuse to buy that kind of food. Food full of additives and preservatives, meat from areas of an animal that you wouldn't even wish to see. The problem with these foods is that they're not good for you, and eating them frequently can make you miserable. Not only because of the amount of fat and sugar in them, but nothing makes a person feel poor than eating 'poor' food.

By doing a weekly food planner, I can flick through recipe books, magazines and websites to find good, cheap food. If you remember my last shopping trip, I had a lot of meat-based meals. This week, I've gone more vegetarian. Meat's so expensive so by substituting it for a vegetarian dish, you can afford to spend the extra on more flavoursome ingredients.

This week's meal plan:
Salmon and Potato Salad
Chicken, Chorizo and Broad Bean Rice
Courgette, Roasted Pepper and Gremolata Tart with Sweet Potato Wedges
Green Thai Curry with Greens
Spaghetti and Chilli Prawns
Gnocchi, Tomato and Mozerella Bake
Steak and Kidney Pie

I couldn't buy a single lime so the rest will get cut into wedges and frozen for summer drinks. The steak and kidney I have will also make more than 2 portions, so that, too, will get frozen and I'll make some dumplings for a stew on a day that's not as warm. I also bought 2 bags of mega cheap gnocchi to whack in the freezer and be eaten in a moments notice. I do have a recipe for gnocchi which I imagine I will be posting some time next week as I have a glut of potatoes that need eating.

Over in the top right corner you'll see some popping corn. After reading Elizabeth Carmen's blog over at Life Blessons about popping corn on the stove, I have decided to give it a go. Matthew loves popcorn and this is a really cheap way of snacking in the evening, curled up watching a film. In the bottom left corner there's a bag of walnuts - a staple in my cupboard as then I can make the world's easiest brownies at any given moment.

Don't buy rubbish food. If you can't cook - try and learn. Cooking isn't hard, and it's a sure fire way of making you feel better both physically, and emotionally regarding your finances. Stay tuned for more weekly shopping lists!

Friday, 4 June 2010

It's Pimms o'clock!

Sometimes I get so caught up in saving money that I forget to actually go out and do things like a normal person. I guess it's a kind of fear of spending my money so frivolously but it needn't be.

I go out on a Friday after work maybe once a month. That's a decent amount, I think. I'm not spending money every week on drinks, but I'm not alienating myself from the group by always refusing an invitation. Plus, there's something about always having to say no to going out with people because you can't afford it that makes you feel just rubbish.

No one wants to openly say that they have no money - and so you don't have to give that impression. 3 weeks in a row, you can 'happen to have other plans', but once a month 'yeah, I think I could go for one' is a treat for yourself.

But one is enough. One is sensible and one stops you from getting so drunk that you don't care about how much money you spend. One also gives you the chance of being offered a drink, and you smile sweetly and thankfully accept, before heading home because that was your plan. Stay any later and you could get sucked into rounds and that is the worst thing for anyone on a tight budget to get involved in - don't do it!!

So this evening, I sat in the glorious sunshine amongst cheery Friday night just-out-of-the-office banter and enjoyed my (free, thanks to Tom who treated me after I did a lot of work for him this afternoon) double Pimms and lemonade.

Summer is finally here.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Selling Your Stuff

Never under estimate the power of selling your unwanted things on the internet.

I used to be a fan of eBay, but since moving to an area where Gumtree is often used, I have become an avid fan. We used it to sell our giant TV cabinet when we moved house and other household items. It's better on eBay for 2 reasons: it's free, and you get what you ask for. Of course, on the downside - you get what you ask for - which could be a bit of a curse if you have an item that's in demand.

I find it particularly useful for larger items - items that can't be shipped easily. Write on the ad 'please pick up' et voila - absolutely minimal effort on your part.

I put up this dressing table mirror about 3 weeks ago. My mum had given it to me months ago but gave me a beautiful mirror when we moved so I had no need for it anymore - but I didn't want to just throw it away. Instead, it's sat happily behind my sofa until someone decided they needed it. And for the girl who bought it, it was perfect. She was so much happier than I had been with it and that's a home I was glad for it to go to.

£15 for an item I had behind my sofa is a good deal. That's a bottle of wine, or three. It's a trip to the cinema, and it's less clutter in our home.

This weekend, I suggest a good old rummage through drawers for unwanted bits and bobs and get selling! Gumtree, Craigslist, eBay - you name it, you get your stuff on it! And treat yourself to a new dress for these fiiiiiiiine summer days!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

How to Make the Most out of a Hideous Garden

This is the view of my garden from my living room window. It's not that pretty. Actually, it's awful, and could really do with a cut lawn and someone to take away that horrendous washing machine that has been left there (how, I have no idea).

It pains me that they garden is that bad, but I share it with the other 9 flats in this house and I've only been here for 2 months - not long enough to establish some stability and justify spending any amount of money to make my view pleasant.

However - in the garden are two very brightly coloured trees. Beautiful trees, lost in all that ugliness. And my living room needed brightening up a little so I took a wander downstairs with a pair of scissors. I got a beautiful result!

Free flowers! Lovely free flowers in a used coffee jar. All in all, a completely free decoration that is beautiful and brings the colours of spring into my home. I have a few more vases that are definitely going to get the same treatment!

This one is now sitting happily on my cookery bookshelf, next to the sewing machine and reflecting it's spring quality through the mirror. Doesn't it look as though it's meant to be there?

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