February’s food plans

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There’s been a bit too much of the above in our house lately! On the run up to Christmas, during the festive period and then through the birthday-packed month of January I basically ate whatever I liked. Smoked salmon and cream cheese on bagels? Why have one when you can have three?! Cakes? I’ll just finish this plate off. Ooh – chips! Mmm, cream in coffee! Yay, vanilla latte! And repeat. The result? I have put on almost 10 pounds in two months! Oh dear, and I was doing so well.

My intention was always to have a big dieting break (check) and to get back to it properly the first Monday of February (check). I’m not going to bang on about my plans. My goal is to lose 25 pounds. I have no specific goal for February other than to have made a substantial step towards this by the end of the month.

I am also going to be recording my/our food spending. Our food budget comes ‘in’ on around the 6-7th of each month so I’ll be starting this Friday. At the moment the budget is £220. I need to see if this is still realistic for us or if I need to try and wring some extra funds from elsewhere.

Game on!

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January: 15 in 15 report

I’m planning to report back at the end (ish!) of each month to see how I’m doing with my 15 resolutions in 2015. So for January…

1. Improve health: I’ve been to the dentist, got my last free check-up and also arranged for the crown to be fitted (also free). I’ve been to the doctors about my skin. Next step is an oral medication which I can’t have yet as am still giving baby boy once feed a day. I’m planning to phase that out by the end of February so should be able to have my treatment then. I’ve also been to the doctors about the ongoing post pregnancy/caesarean pain I’ve been having. I’ve had an internal exam (super fun) and have been referred for an ultrasound (just to be on the safe side – doctor is convinced I’m okay). I have also been referred for physiotherapy as my stomach muscles have not knitted together properly which is why I’m getting a lot of discomfort from ridiculous things like…standing up for more than 10 minutes (not kidding). Thankfully this doctor has agreed that a year is long enough to have been patient and it is time to get proactive. If I had not made this resolution I am sure I would have just let a lot of this drag on so it has been worth it for this if nothing else!

2. Get to target weight: My weight is a disaster. See post on this later. Good news is, my action plan starts today!

3. More self care: I’ve been taking more care of my skin by trying to use up a lot of old body creams etc. Whenever I do this I end up thinking ‘Why don’t I do this all the time?!’. My skin feels great. My facial skin has been really crappy as I’ve been trying to leave it alone due to the skin condition. However, I’ve started using my face mask and gentle exfoliator again, just on the unaffected areas. This has made my face look much better overall so I’m going to carry on. Need to get hair cut though…

4. Build a capsule wardrobe: Hmmm. The weight thing is still stopping me here though I did ask for a new shirt (in an unfavoured size) as a present, just to have one nice thing to wear. I wore it on my birthday. I also bought an extra long vest top from Next (only £6) which is AMAZING as it stop that horrible gap from emerging between your jeans and your top. Particularly when you are constantly strapping mini people into car seats / dismantling pushchairs etc. I am too old for that gap. Cheerio.

5. Personal projects & hobbies: I found a discounted online course in something I am really interested in. For £12! I hope to start this in the next month.

6. Replace 2 windows: We have £35 in the pot which, considering the many, many, many birthdays we have in January is nothing short of a miracle.

7. Rebuild ISA: Nope. But I did hear back from the tax credit people. We should be getting something for the tax year 15-16 so the plan is to put all of this money (plus up to £32 a month from our joint account) into the ISA until it is back to £3k.

8. Save £500 Emergency fund: This also has £35 in it, just like the window fund. I am contemplating reorganising this but we’ll see!

9. Stick to budget/cash system: Mostly but not as well as I could have!

10.Work effectively: Still finding the juggling act tricky. Have also found an online course for work. I’ll have to pay for it and do it in my own time but it should help me with my projects. Plus is was discounted to £39 and will look good on my CV should I ever need to dust it off!

11. Quality family time: Making this resolution has been good at creating awareness. I hate to keep banging on about the birthdays but it has been crazy around here. Hopefully things will now settle down to ‘normal’ and I can carve out more time. There has been a lot of music playing and dancing though which is always a good thing!

12. Be organised at home: I’ve been quite good here and have really spent time looking at where my time is going and what I need to get done each day. More on this in another post.

13. Eat well (and on budget): I have no idea how I’ve done budget wise. Honestly, I haven’t paid enough attention. This is one of my main focuses for February. And I’ve eaten like a pig!

14. Set a better example: Probably not but I am trying to be more aware!

15. Home Improvements: Husband went around the house with a pot of white paint and a paint brush (both of which were left from previous projects) and painted over various marks and scuffs.

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Should I snowball my savings?

This week I’ve been pondering the question, should I take the snowball approach to my savings funds rather than saving a bit towards everything at the same time? ‘Snowballing’ debts has been a popular approach whereby the person/people in question pays the minimum amount required on all of their debts apart from the smallest one. They throw all available money at the smallest debt until it is gone and then pay off the next smallest etc etc until it is all gone. Personally I’d go for the one that was charging the most interest but that’s aside from the point!

This year we have a lot of little savings accounts on the go. They include:

  • School uniform fund (plus other clothes and shoes for Girlie)
  • clothes and shoes for baby boy
  • birthdays, birthday parties and Christmas
  • girlie’s activities (dance and swimming)
  • the £500 window fund
  • The £500 emergency fund
  • ISA repair!
  • any other home improvements

I also ought to be saving for the school holidays but that’s a bit beyond me at the moment!

I would not like to give up saving each month for the things that directly involve the children (ie clothes, activities, Christmas). It just feels too risky to me somehow. But with the two £500 funds, I’m wondering if I should throw all of the available money at one fund and then the other and so on.

I really want to make sure it all happens but I am also aware that a mental ‘boost’ from having achieved a target would make living on a small budget more pleasurable and maybe provide more motivation to carry on. But maybe I ought to keep saving a bit at a time knowing that I will get there in the end and that all of these important funds are being looked after. Snowball or tortoise? Any thoughts anyone?

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Cauliflower Soup from the River Cottage Baby & Toddler Cookbook

image I recently made made a batch of Cauliflower soup which is absolutely gorgeous. It has a luxurious, creamy texture to it that feels really indulgent. Every time I have some I feel like I’m having a bit of a naughty soup instead of a healthy one – and yet it has no dairy in it at all! Baby boy likes it too (that’s his pirate bowl and blue spoon, not mine). I got the recipe from the River Cottage Baby and Toddler cookbook. This book is FANTASTIC. I have borrowed it three times so far and have been copying out recipes each time. I will buy a copy eventually but not before those windows are replaced!               image As this book is marketed at parents of babies and toddlers I think a lot of people who would like the recipes in it wouldn’t pick it up. Personally I prefer recipes like these that are quite simple. I prefer the taste, they are usually relatively quick to make and less fussy ingredients usually means more budget friendly! This book has loads of good ideas in it and PAGES of information on how to prepare and store gluts of veg, what children needs to eat at different ages etc. Seriously, this book is once of the best recipe books I’ve ever read. The Cauliflower Soup recipe is going into my folder of beloved recipes that I make again and again – it’s always nice to find a new addition!

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Breakfast muffins

In a recent post I mentioned picking up the free magazine from Tesco. Inside was a really good recipe for carrot and apple breakfast muffins.

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One of the things I liked about this recipe is that it didn’t have a lot of fussy ingredients. The only thing I didn’t have was a lemon so I just threw in a bit of lemon curd! It turned out fine.

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The muffins froze really well and were well received! My only gripe with breakfast muffins is the sugar. I would love to find a recipe that requires either hardly any or none at all. If anyone knows of one please do let me know! Until then, these will just be an occasional treat :-) .

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Budget bookworm

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I’m still managing to keep myself entertained on a very tight budget. The above two books came from Tesco where they have a corner for used books which you can pick up for a 50p donation. I’ve just finished Sharp Objects from the author who wrote Gone Girl which I finished reading a couple of weeks ago. Note to self: If Stephen King says a book is ‘relentlessly creepy’ then it is. I couldn’t put it down though! I haven’t started December yet. I mainly picked it up because I’ve been craving a book set somewhere wintery. Dos anyone else get mood/setting/era based reading cravings or is it just me?!

I also downloaded A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf which I love. I was going to read my paperback version but I don’t get much chance to read ‘real’ books and I find a Kindle easier to read in bed. Since it was only 49p on Amazon I thought it was a good investment and I’m looking forward to re-reading it.

So, a total spend of £1.49! I’ve also started making a list of books to order from the library – mainly recipe books. I used to be really good at ordering books from the library but then fell out of the habit. In my county, the library website is actually quite difficult to navigate and it has put me off. But I really ought to as it is such a great way of reading without spending too much!

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Budget food and food budgets

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After my pantry sort out I was feeling inspired to get using the things I already had. In particular a pack of sausages that had been lurking in my freezer since October. My favourite recipe in Jack Monroe’s book is the Sausage and Lentil One-Pot. I’ve made it several times and it was so good I’m afraid I completely forgot to take a photograph I was so keen to get on and eat it! The whole family likes this one. I hadn’t made it for over 6 months so it was baby boy’s first go at it and it was a hit. I did have to go out any buy some red lentils as, post-pantry organising, I realised I was out of them. I’ve actually cooked more recipes out of Jack’s book than any other recipe book I’ve ever had. I hadn’t picked it up in a while (we’ve been in firefighting mode re. sleep, work, illness, school etc or Christmas-ing for ages) but was pleased to find some inspiration between its pages. I also made the lemon version of the Paddington Puddings which we had last night with custard. Again, total photo fail. We just ate the lot!

I picked up the Tesco food magazine when I was last in there. I so rarely read a magazine these days. It seems weird to me that I ever read so many, never mind had the disposable income to buy them all. Anyway, there are some nice ideas in there that I’d like to try so that turned out to be a nice, free treat!

I’m thinking about recording all of my food spending during February. Maybe all of my spending overall, just to see exactly what is going where. Our food budget is £220 per calendar month. Each month I can’t help thinking that I could spend a bit less and save the difference but that’s probably a bit optimistic. Still, I think it would be a good time to look at our food budget and see if it needs adjusting.

PS Do you like my new mug? I got it for Christmas. I love all of the Cath Kidston London prints and had been oggling this mug for ages! Small things :-)

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Pantry planning

In preparation for the end of January (the month of birthdays!) I’m trying to get organised so I can really get a handle on our food budget. In many ways I feel like I really need to get back to basics. In my view, this is knowing what you’ve already got before you take any other action or make any plans. I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking that I’ve got a fairly good idea of what we’ve got and then either a) running out of things or b) buying things we’ve already got. This weekend 8 gave our pantry a good sort out. This might not look that organised but it is a huge improvement on the messy shelves, wrappers etc that were strewn everywhere before! I’ve written a list of everything in the pantry and another showing everything in the freezers and taped them to the wall of the pantry. This means I can see at a glance what I’ve got and the foundations of any meals we might have. Since doing this I’ve done a food shop and added to the list. I envisage giving the pantry and freezers a good tidy once a month and writing out fresh lists each time. That way I can scribble things out and add things on through the month and have a much better idea of what we already have. It should also mean everything gets used up without going to waste!image

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Organising my skin and hair care stores

I had been waiting until I’d lost all of the weight until I gave our big, built in wardrobes a big sort out and spring clean. It was going to be a sort of treat to myself. However, this last stone or so seem keen to hang around so I thought I’d tackle just the bits where I keep all of my skin care things. One of my New Years Resolutions was to take better care of myself which I’ve found slightly tricky as I now have this dermatitis thing going on with my face. So I actually feel like I’m taking less care of myself than usual – no exfoliators, no weekly face mask, no lovely face oil – argh! Not to be beaten, I decided to have a good sort through of my skin care hoards to see what treats I can still use and to also get things a little more organised. The photos are a bit dark but these are the two integral shelves where I keep my day to day skin and hair products (and also my wash bag for when we go away (ha!) and my sewing basket) and hair dryer and straighteners etc. It doesn’t look like much but I was so excited to have somewhere out of sight to keep all of this stuff when we moved to this house. It’s very easy to access and when I run out of deoderant, cotton wool pads, shower gel, toner or whatever then I can put my hands on a new one straight away. I still use the No 7 vouchers to stock up on face wash, toner and eye make-up remover.

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The baskets (above) are kept on the top shelf and are where I keep other things like new toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoos, conditioners, body lotions etc either from gift sets or BOGOFs. They are the same ones I was using when I started this blog and lived on top of the wardrobe in our previous home! This post may make it sound like I spend huge amounts of money on skin care products but I very rarely purchase anything at all. I quite often get things as gifts and everything else I buy on offer. I hardly ever seem to have to buy anything at all – usually 2 or 3 times a year. I think this is probably because I usually have a good idea of what I’ve already got in ‘stock’. I’ve actually just bought a few new things in the 70% off sale in Boots which I’ll do a separate post on.

It’s lovely to feel organised (see resolution 12) and to have found some things I can still use for a bit of pampering (see resolution 3)!

Categories: Budget beauty, Getting organised | 2 Comments

Resolution update!

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One of the things I love about birthdays is the excuse to buy flowers! So far (out of our closest family and friends) we’re two birthdays down, five to go. It feels like a marathon at times. So, we’ve thrown the only party we’re going to be throwing this month and now I’m enjoying the flowers, bunting and leftovers (all on an impressively small budget of course)!

How is everyone doing with their New Years Resolutions? Due to all of the birthday-ing I don’t feel like I’ve really got going yet but some progress has been made.

Resolution 1 – Health: I’ve had a check up at the dentist and managed to squeeze it in before my free medical care ran out (you get free dental treatment and prescriptions while pregnant and until your baby turns one). I also got the ball rolling on getting my first ever crown. Because the problem came up during my maternity leave the crown will also be free which is excellent news as we’ve got so many other things to save up for. Making a resolution regarding my health was a good one here as I would probably have put this off otherwise. I know the crown needs doing (and will look better) but it doesn’t exactly sound like a barrel of laughs.

Resolutions 6 & 8 – Replace 2 windows and save £500 emergency fund: We’ve put £20 in each fund which I think is probably as far as we’ll get this month due to all of the birthday madness but it is a start!

Resolution 7 – Get ISA back to £3k: I’m still not sure what the balance on this is going to end up at but I think we’ll need around £1k to ‘repair’ this ISA. I’ve finally managed to sort the sums out on our earnings in this financial year and I am hopeful that we are due a back payment in tax credits. If we are, all of the back payment will go towards repairing the ISA. £1k is such a huge sum for us to find on our budget that we can’t afford to waste an opportunity to replace a chunk of it. Fingers crossed.

Resolution 11 – Quality family time: Making a resolution about this has been really helpful in focusing my attention. I’ve definitely made better use of little pockets of time that have cropped up. It’s easy to think ‘Oh I’ve got 10 minutes and they’re happy playing, I’ll get on with X Y Z’ but instead I’ve played or read a book or sat down for a cuddle and a chat. I’ve no idea how they feel about it but I love it! I think a lot of this resolution will focus on using little bits of time together to properly connect rather than days out or grand gestures etc as it is really in the boring humdrum of the everyday where the effort pays off.

Resolution 15 – Home improvements and maintenance: Husband went around the house yesterday and touched up all of the white paintwork on the walls where there were scuffs and black marks etc. We have a giant tub of white emulsion from when we decorated baby boy’s room so we didn’t have to spend anything to do this. Our living room, kitchen and dining area are all painted white as are both children’s rooms which makes life very easy!

I’ll be back when I’ve got more progress to report…

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