Monday, 25 February 2013

Lent fail

After my last post I decided to challenge myself. I don't want to be reliant on caffeine to keep me alive and moving - I have more respect for myself that than, do I not?! So I made a decision post my last pancake on shrove Tuesday that I would give up chocolate, tea AND coffee for lent. 40 days. How hard could it be?
1 x a 4-day-long headache and 15x random falling asleep in the middle of the day and I decided it was just a bit too hard. I don't think I am ready for a life without caffeine :( I also put on about 7lbs because the sugar cravings were so strong. I didn't know what do do with myself in an evening when I'd normally make a cup of I did cake. After 4 days the headaches were easing off... but I decided I wasn't prepared to become a tired and fat person so I would put the kettle on and give up sweets instead.
Something good happened though. I had a cup of tea and an evening coffee that day. At 4am when all the world was fast asleep...I was buzzing. This had never happened to me before. Before this I could down 3 coffees and go strait to bed and sleep zzzzzzz. I think there is a part of me that must have mended in that 10th of lent I just managed. :-)  I am on a happy balance of restricted caffeine intake. Plus that 7lbs has already left me - phew!

Monday, 11 February 2013

Happy and sad points

I am CRAVING goodness. Today I went to work and sat for most of the day on a seat, in a room of no natural daylight and a mini heater blasting out fake hotness for 8 hours and worked mainly on a computer with a few breaks to tidy up and sort out what I like to call 'real things' so that I can add at least some movement into my day. The highlight was carrying some heavy bags to a charity shop which gave me fresh air, exercise,  daylight and the feel good factor of doing something positive... and then going back to eat my lunch which was my wholesome homemade soup from yesterday. By tea time I could hardly keep my eyes open and I know I've consumed 2 cups of tea and 2 strong coffees to keep me going. That's not good. I've also watched the news, which was a list of at least 4 murder cases then a film about someone who's husband dies... and then embarrassing fat bodies. :( For the positive team I had a really lovely message from a girl who Golddigger Trust worked with a few years ago which was out of the blue and completely upped the happy points by about a million but other than that the happy :)/sad :( balance is not so good today. Not nearly enough of the good things I need.
Tomorrow morning we're up early for pancake breakfast... is allowed on ACTUAL pancake day. Then time to decide on lent. I was going to do what I did last year and give up chocolate but after today I'd quite like to give up sad films, dark rooms, sitting still, working on a computer, the news, processed foods and maybe even be REALLY brave and give up tea and coffee. All of this would be worth it for the happy points I would get from ridding these things from life. Excitingly we're viewing a new office tomorrow so I may actually be able to give up the dark room and evil heater soon soon soon!

P.s I totally missed off my favorite thing - a snowy walk to school with my babies this morning - lots of fresh air, real snow and how many people get to walk past fields of sheep on their way to school every day :-)
But just now, in preparation for a happy activity tomorrow, I just accidentally emptied all the coppers from my purse all over the bottom of my bag. Also earlier on today I accidentally emptied my pack of sugar free rhubarb and custard M&S sweets all over the bottom of my bag. We have a sweets, crumbs, coins situation so I think the sweets are a right-off :(

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Gardening Club

Well the meal planning is going kind of strong. Since my last post we (as in Joel) made a good £6 risotto which was plenty for 2 nights (I can do this without a calculator...£3 a night) and its a good risotto too - with butternut squash and chicken, a few cashews, celery, garlic and onion. I used the leftover squash to make a spicy butternut and roast red pepper soup with a few carrots, potatoes, onions, a red chilli, a roast red pepper and a 'tinse' of cream. So the spending is going well... on food. We have a new craze however. This new craze has led to us getting a bit carried away and spending more than we should and the £300 I put in our groceries and petrol account is now down to £72.80 and its just the 10th of the month! :S Ooooops! Anyway... our new craze is indeed Gardening Club!! Now that all the hard work is done on the bit of land that we bought and are morphing into our side garden its time to have some fun with it. Joel has managed to dig out all the forest of spiky bushes and sticky weed that was there and made it nice and flat and planted a hedge round the outside. So now all the boring bit is done we thought we could start our Gardening Club. We have a list of veg we want to grow, fruit tree ideas and our favorite flowers in our 'GC Notebook'. Last Sunday was week 1. We went out to B&Q and bought a border. I told Joel which plants I've hated since we bought our house, he dug them up, broke a 4th fork but they are gone. Elijah found worms to put into the compost and then we planted bluebells and snowdrops.
We came in and planned more including a trip to another few gardening shops on Friday after school to get a few more things for next weeks Gardening Club...and this is why our money for food has disappeared!
Unfortunately it snowed today on Gardening Club day so we didn't do any digging or planting but we are now the proud owners of some shiny new diggers and forks (mini size) some bulbs and seeds to grow potatoes, asparagus (!) rhubarb, and onions... oh and a whole apple tree!
Please please don't snow or miserably rain next Sunday.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Tonights tea... £5.39

Be prepared... this may be the dullest thing you have ever read... I am about to work out how much my dinner cost. Yep. Smiley face :-)

For tea tonight we had baked potato. 8 in a pack for 2.60 =  32 and a half p. each and we had 3. So 97.5p for those.
1 tin of beans between us for 40p - nope, not Heinz
3 mini corn on the cobs at 20p each = 60p total
and about 100g of value cheese - probably about 60p's worth.
That's £2.575 for the whole of our dinner for 4 people. So 64p each. Its also surprisingly filling as this was our tea strait after swimming lessons so it is a particularly hungry night.

Then I made a mango and apple strudel for pudding - which is everso exotic and posh as it has mango in it. I had some pastry in the freezer (I did not make it because I have a job and children and pastry is fattening and unhealthy anyway so justifies the cheating) but that was about £1.20. Then I chopped up a £1 mango and a 61.5p cooking apple and cooked with a spoon of brown sugar and a bit of cinnamon and made into strudel shape and baked.
So that pudding cost £2.815! That seems quite a lot. Is it? I hope that I wouldn't have been better off buying a strudel instead - although I can appreciate that we would have got 2/5 a day of fresh (but cooked) fruit packed into this one and I'm quite pleased that there's enough left over to put into tomorrows packed lunches for the children- which should score me good mummy points with the lunchtime supervisors at school. Home baked Strudel VS pack of Jaffa Cakes? Well Strudel is the clear winner. We are NOT allowed any processed items in packed lunches. No chocolate bars, no mini cheddar's, no crisps. This is good because I don't buy any of these things and instead of looking like the alternative, non-conformist, hippie family we actually instead look like the good ones who read their parent letters and follow the rules.

:O Strudel news!! It turns out my strudel costs double the amount I could have paid. Sainsburys has an offer to get TWO for £2.50. BUT get this list of ingredients of just the filling!!... "Filling contains: Apples (81%), Sugar, Sultana (7%), Thickeners: Potato Starch, Sodium Alginate, Calcium Alginate; Wheat Flour, Acidity Regulator: Citric Acid; Water, Cinnamon Powder, Flavouring, Salt, Yeast.Glaze contains: Sugar, Glucose Syrup, Palm Fat." WHAT are all those things?!! Mine had non of that thick stuff or palm fat or any of those scary sounding things from the Periodic Table... but it did have mango. So mine wins :-)

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The first shop

So in my attempts to stick to £50 a week on groceries while maintaining healthy values... I just went to the supermarket and it came to £83.28. I was ill. This is partially an excuse as I wasn't thinking strait (?!) and also I needed bin bags and washing powder. I didn't even look at the clothes, pretty candles, books, magazines or CDS... so its all food and so far...NOT so good. But I'll keep trying at my target and attempt not to go over £200 for the month.
On the plus side Holly and I cut the mold off some stale bread and baked bread and butter pudding at tea time. She is being my little helper and I've been through the finances with her. She's clever for 8... I think I need her. The pudding was good (not the MOST healthy but home cooked... and the mold will be good for our immunity)

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Camping Party 'Boy is 6'

Bug Pinatas, Froggy Cake Pops, Campfire Cake and Napsack Party Bags
Having a pre- building site bit of land next to the house last summer came in handy for our muddy Jubilee party but even more so for Elijah's 6th Camping themed birthday party. It was great to have a big space, mainly mud and room for a huge tent for a party for the whole class in the middle of July. It ended up that we only used the house for loo trips and kept the carnage for outside. Still a little young for sleepovers with his school friends, he finished off the day with a fab campfire and sleep-out with just his very-best-friend - Daddy. Meanwhile Holly and I had the 4 poster bed, popcorn and DVDs and were quite happy with that deal.
The party was so much fun though. We stuck to a few classic games, made a big kerplunk-type game, a cardboard archery set, bug hunts, treasure hunts and had loads of crafts. The older sisters LOVED being in charge of the Lemonade Stall and the party bags were my fave yet!

The Happy Birthday Boy
Homemade archery with cardboard target, garden cane and string

Girls working hard on the Lemonade Stall

We made the party bags with garden cane and red fabric. Each one contained Trail Mix, a torch, a lolly, some toy animals and the girls got notebooks, the boys got a bag of marbles. 

Elijah got to be chief Trail Mix maker and had lots of fun mixing mini marshmallows, chocolate raisins, cereal and a few sweets and toffees

Homemade climbing wall out of and old shed!

Can I REALLY feed the family for £50 a week??

I've been here before. I KNOW its possible because I've managed it. However my major two camps which I flit between are being thrifty and being healthy. I'm not a foodie. I really struggle to go to restaurants and spend money on eating food. I can't buy special cheese or posh snacks or even crisps - food is just an essential item, a boring thing we have to do... and every time I get to the check out I'm already working out how many tops I could have got instead of all this dull food. Its the way my brain works and I've not met many people who get this! So when I'm not obsessed with saving I'm busy being obsessed with nutrition. I love it when I know I've made meals from scratch, I know every item is unprocessed and I can pack 7 different veg onto my children's plate. At home we let the children choose 2 things they don't have to eat. They both chose leeks and mushroom. If either of those is found in their meal they can leave it but everything else has to go. They can submit a request to change their chosen vegetables but this has to be done in writing and doesn't get authorised for 24 hours. We've found this works to stop a sudden change to celery mid meal when there's no mushroom around. Anyhow, I've found a way to chop mushroom so that it doesnt look like mushroom and they eat it (and I tell them afterwards because I'm slightly honest) But I love it that when there's something they're struggling with we get out the Food Doctor book about superfoods and read up about what they're eating and what it helps with. They don't just know about eating their greens...but which shades of green will help with different aspects of looking after their bodies. I love how amazing food can be for they way we feel, the way our minds operate and how it can increase our effectiveness if we use it well...and do the opposite when we don't. I've never taken my children to McDonalds. I'm never surprised when I see pictures of chicken brains in a KFC and I've explained about the pig snouts and ears you get in frankfurters. So long as they are educated and have had a healthy grounding while I'm in charge of their meals! Apparently eating about 15-20 blueberries at the end of your lunch more than doubles the effectiveness of your work in the afternoon. I tried it and it's true. There's nothing worse than the afternoon lull. The trouble is blueberries are expensive. How do I fit 20 blueberries a day into a £50, family of 4 for a week plan!?
So thats the aim. Instead of hitting the financial target by mainly eating value pasta and homemade tomato based sauces I NEED to get the right variety and goodness in there too. Well... February is a short month. Seems like the ideal one to give it a go. I've £200 just arrived in the bank for grocery shopping and I'm enthusiastic so lets give it a go!? It is, admittedly, already the 5th... but I've not bought anything in Feb yet and my grocery budget also has to buy things like shampoo, nappies (still:S) and urgently a load of washing powder (which is always loads!) so its a fair attempt.
Ooh and pretty soon we wont have to buy garlic as we've just grown some! Thats at least 70p saved right there!