Sunday, 27 November 2011

Budgeting

So payday has finally arrived, and due to the car repairs putting me back in my overdraft I now (sadly!) have a very similar budget to work with as last month- around £1100.00. I put the odd £13.00 into my ISA to make the number nice and even to remember and this is how I reckon next months finances should (hopefully- fingers crossed!) pan out:

£220.00 rent
£200.00 into the joint account to pay for bills and food
£33.00 phone bill (am thinking of downgrading at the end of next year to save the £££)
£42.00 gym membership (again I think I will be cancelling my membership when my year is up at the beginning of March)
£94.00 x2 weekly travel cards (due to my week off over Christmas)
=£589.00
+30.00 approx. additional money from working at Twickenham rugby match today
Leaving £541.00 disposable income

This weekend I have spent/plan on spending very little. Last night I was tired and feeling a little worse for wear from the night before so I went for a swim and steam session before zonking out on the sofa. And tonight a friend was holding a house warming gathering, so I took round some soft drinks and posh crisps to share as me and my other friend were both driving and generally had a little natter and discussed the reality tv show strictly come dancing.

Tomorrow, the BF is off work so I plan on sorting out the mess which has accumulated on top of our wardrobes which has started to annoy me, finishing off my Christmas shopping online (hello Amazon!) going to the gym and finishing off the day with a cosy evening in watching a film and eating a nice dinner. 

Friday, 25 November 2011

Grr....

Things don't seem to be running as smoothly as they should be on the finances front.

Firstly there was the surprise trip to the garage earlier on in the week, then last night there was a media night out at a bar near Carnaby Street in Soho.

Now one day before payday and in the run up to Christmas free food and drinks all night was perfectly timed. However, after succumbing to the pressure of j├Ąger bombs I ended up leaving my new black blazer in the bar and will probably never see it again- sadly proving the age old saying true 'there's no such thing as a free lunch'. Hmpffff.

Then after getting in I picked up our joint account bank statement from the mat in the hall and discover that virgin have charged us £75 for our tv and Internet- it's meant to be around the £40 mark. After their constant f*** ups earlier on this year it doesn't really come as a big surprise.

I would call them but learned the hard way not to call those numbers last month when my phone bill came in £20 more expensive after having to call tfl.
I'm hoping that these annoyances come in threes and that's ours over for a good couple of months.

On a more positive note, just enjoyed another free lunch courtesy of google at one of their marketing events, plus now own a whole bag of google goodies- even cufflinks!

How has everyone elses weeks been? Xx

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The wonder of the humble bean

Around six weeks ago my housemate came back from his mum's house with two tins of kidney beans and one can of chick peas. Knowing my food tastes he said 'I won't be eating them, you can have them if you want them'.

So I stored them at the back of the cupboard, knowing I would probably use them one rainy day.
The tin of chick peas I made into a whole tub of hummus, complete with some roasted red pepper and chili flakes. This made dozens of healthy sandwiches/pittas for work when combined with grated carrot and courgette.

Then last night I really fancied doing a spot of cooking, so I whipped up some kidney bean burgers using the left over tins of kidney beans. One and a half tins made six burgers; two for dinner with some left over salsa from a fajita kit and coconut rice, two for today's lunch with leftover coconut rice, and two are in the fridge ready to be eaten as a pre-gym  snack tomorrow evening- seeing me nicely through to payday!

Here's my improvised bean burger recipe:

Ingredients (All items you can probably find lurking at the back of the cupboard or the bottom of the fridge)



  • One and a half tins of kidney beans
  • One mushroom
  • Half a yellow pepper
  • Half an onion
  • Garlic powder
  • Olive oil
  • Italian seasoning
  • Sprinkle of stuffing mix
  • Flaked almonds (for added crunch)
  • Flour 


Method

  1. Pour all ingredients into a saucepan and leave to heat until beans are soft
  2. Mash all ingredients together, use flower to thicken the consistency
  3. Spoon out onto a baking tray into little round patty shapes
  4. Grill/oven to cook as desired 

Monday, 21 November 2011

One step forward, three steps back....

So there I was yesterday feeling sort of smug with my month- £70 squirreled away and half my Christmas shopping done- all on about three weeks pay,and with three days worth of lunches packed into the fridge and just a few days away from my first full pay check in a couple of months and well, things took a bit of a turn for the worst on the financial front.

I woke up early to move my car as I had the day off and can't park out the front of the flat during the day as there are restrictions. After turning the key for about five minutes it was clear that Mary the micra as my sister says was not going to start. So I called the rac guy out, and spent the following hour in my pink fluffy sleepsuit, coat and boots watching him trying to get my car started. I thought it would be a simple case of me not using it enough which combined with the cold weather was making her an unhappy lady. And that the miracle mechanic man would we able to work his magic and I would have my little car back. However, after 60 minutes of failed attempts to get the ignition to work he gives up and says he'll have to tow me to the garage.

Alarm bells started ringing about the cost of the repairs and I thought about £70 would cover it- a bit annoying but I could cope with it.

After a few hours I get a phone call from the garage, waffling in technical car jargon and informing me I now owe them somewhere in the region of £270- I nearly fell off my chair :(.

So I went to the bank (Santander just to warn you!) for another complaining session- this time lodging an official complaint and I tell them I want a goodwill gesture for the inconvenience of then failing to send me my new pin number three times! Four weeks I haven't been able to user debit card (a right royal pain in the ass in the lead up to Christmas, going away for the weekend and the final straw- the car breaking!). I tried to withdraw the money for the car repair from my savings account but the woman couldn't do that so my overdraft took a battering- luckily it's interest free for another three years! I guess it's better to do that and pay it off about £50 per month then lose money in interest from the savings account. I was so looking forward to a full paycheck on Friday too, and have even got some part time bar work lined up on Saturday and over Christmas in which I hoped I could piggy bank away...


Anyways after a bit of a shitty day yesterday I was on an excel course today. I took left over fajita wraps with me, to find out lunch was going on expenses! So I had a nice pret lunch, diet coke, edamae beans and a prawn noodle salad courtesy of tmp, I got a text from my housemate telling me I had had a beautiful bunch of flowers delivered from Santander with an apology (makes me laugh how they get my address right to send flowers, but have failed three times to send a pin number!) and arrive at work to find my desk and chair decorated, with a card and two presents neatly stacked on top of it. Even the wrapping paper had been customised which I thought was nice seeing I have only been with the company about six weeks. They gave me some new reading material for the train, because they wanted to improve my choices! Hehe, so my bookcase will be happy for the latest additions to the shelf.

What a couple of days! X

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Winter stew

Inspired by Frugal Queens most recent post I decided to make a warming soup/stew in the slow cooker, ready  to be divided up into individual portions which will be eaten over the course of the next week. I was half following a recipe from a cook book, half improvising- so here is my final recipe.

Ingredients 
  1. One tin of smart price chopped tomatoes 
  2. Teaspoon of tomato puree
  3. Sprinkle of Italian seasoning, garlic and paxo stuffing powder
  4. Handful of pasta
  5. Some roughly chopped green beans
  6. Mushrooms
  7. Sweetcorn
  8. One carrot
  9. Half a tin of kidney beans
  10. Half a white onion
  11. Vegetable stock
Method
  • Chop all ingredients which need it 
  • Make stock
  • Place all ingredients into slow-cooker, sprinkle seasonings 
  • Cook for approximately five hours
  • Serve with some chunky bread/baguette 
This little lot made four portions; one for tea, one for lunch tomorrow and two are in their plastic tubs ready to be taken to work on Tuesday and Wednesday. Simples. 

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Christmas krispy kreams have arrived

A box of Christmas krispy kream donuts have just arrived in the office from total jobs. Nestled safely inside the packaging are a variety of donuts including one in the shape of a Christmas tree and one with a snow mans face.

I've only ever had half a plain, glazed krispy kream before quite a few years ago. I carefully selected toffee glazed donut which was a lovley (free!) substitute to my lunch and was delicious accompanied by a free office coffe. Yummy! I cut it into tiny pieces to nibble throughout the day to hopefully avoid the post-sugar rush slump.

Hopefully more foodie freebies will keep coming my way until payday next week which will keep my tummy feeling Happy :)

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

A brief update

I just want to say another big thank you to my most recent follower 'Butterfly'; it still fills me with excitement to see the number of people interested in reading my tiny contribution to the blog-o-sphere creep up slowly one by one.

I seem to have fallen slightly off the frugal path at the moment due to the prolonged birthday celebrations, as well as spending a bit too much on grabbing food whilst gadding about London Town. This is despite me being slightly in the minus in the old current account (luckily its interest free still, a nice remnant from my student days!) But I have put about £70 into the savings account this month- I promise I'll be back to my usual careful self once this weekend has passed.

How is everyone's week going so far? well I hope. TTFN x

Monday, 14 November 2011

I turned 25 yesterday.....and Christmas shopping

So this weekend myself and the BF had a little trip up North, staying overnight in Leeds and going on a little jaunt over to York on my actual birthday. On Saturday we traveled for four hours on a freezing mega bus and then explored the city, having a spot of lunch and stocking up on snacks before hitting the town for a few drinks together. After a few too many sherbets we stumbled  back to our hotel room and I awoke to an all day hangover the next day I'm afraid to say.


Now this sound a little weird but there's something about birthdays I just don't really like, and what makes me uncomfortable. Ever since I was little I hated the day where the attention would be on me, and I would be expected have to have an extraordinary amount of fun, I just don't like that pressure- maybe it is just me being strange as my Mum always says?

Anyway we took in the sights or beautiful, historic York had lunch (except I couldn't face food) in a lovely little country pub in front of the big old fireplace on a huge squishy leather sofa and shopped a little more. We walked up along the city wall, marveled at the beautiful cathedral, had a look around the transport museum and made our way back to Leeds by train.

After a four hour trip back to London, I was finally starting to feel back to normal again and we had a lovely birthday meal out- at McDonalds lol where I had my first lot of food of the day- A kids chicken nugget happy meal. My tummy was much happier after eating it that's for sure. And I finished the day with a nice relaxing bubble bath, to soothe my aching feet and muscles after all the walking we done over the last few days.

It's fair to say that my hangover did take the shine off of my special day a bit, which was a bit of a shame and not what I wanted and my phone died too literally just as we were leaving the hotel room, so I returned home to my texts and Facebook messages after charging my phone.

This weekend I also made a start on my Christmas shopping in an attempt to spread the cost out a bit. I bought my Mum a Yankee candle in Chrismas Eve scent along with a Pandora charm for her bracelet and a little handmade heart thing from the craft market in York, my sister a black and silver jewellry box which will look really nice in her room as well as a Marmite sandwich box for her Marmite breakfast sarnies she eats on the train every day on the way to work and my Nan one of those little handmade heart things too. I think I'm going to get my Dad the DAB digital alarm clock that he wants, my Nan the Steps greatest hits CD and maybe the book and I'm not sure what to buy my Grandad- socks and slippers?! hehe. BF and I are not giving each other Christmas presents this year, putting our money together instead to hopefully buy a computer in the new year as my laptop has a huge crack in the screen and his lappy is super slow.

I'm aiming to have my presents all wrapped up by mid December to avoid the last minute present buying panic, and instead focus on making the flat feel all nice and Christmassy. Have you started your Chirstmas shopping yet?

TTFN xx


Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Mid-week update

Happy hump-day readers! How are we all feeling mid-week? Looking forward to the weekend?

Anyways, this week I have been frugally feeding myself with lots of fresh vegetable soup. On Saturday I made four servings of carrot soup and poured it into jars I had recycled (I found these are the best way to transport soup- no leaks! and are free too!) and I popped them in the fridge ready to grab bleary eyed before rushing to the train station.

I read somewhere that cookery is not a precise science, but a creative art and this is the advice that I subscribe to. While  my BF scrumptiously cooks according to the recipe down to the last grain I guesstimate, throwing in approximate amounts of ingredients and hoping for the best. So here's my improvised fresh carrot soup recipe;

Ingredients 

  • Three quarters of a bag of smart price carrots, priced a reasonable 76p from Asda 
  • Some garlic
  • Half a red onion found lurking in the fridge
  • One sweet potato 
  • Some flaked almonds (gives a nice crunchy texture) 
  • One roasted red pepper in vinegar from a jar 
  • Some chilli flakes (optional)
  • One low salt vegetable stock cube 
Method 

  1. Chop up all ingredients and place into a slowcooker/large saucepan 
  2. Pour in an approximate amount of hot vegetable stock
  3. Leave to cook 
  4. Once the ingredients have gone soft use a hand blender to blitz into soup
  5. Add some more hot water if needed 
  6. Pour into clean, recycled jars and leave to cool before placing into the fridge 
I spotted some reduced crusty onion french bread rolls in the Co-Op on Sunday evening (they reduce all baked goods towards the end of the day) four for 25p which made a meal of my pre-prepared soup. I've eaten two already this week, and the other two are in the freezer to defrost. 

The price of travel 

Tomorrow is also the date on which I will need to buy a new monthly train ticket, this week I've been walking from the West End to either Waterloo or Charing Cross train stations because it seems the tube is becoming increasingly packed (Christmas shoppers already?!). I'm debating whether to go for the all out travel card option priced £180.00 or a cheaper over-rail only. I'm thinking that there's some x-mas drinks coming up, and we're going away this weekend and our coach goes from Victoria that the travel card will probably be the best choice- at least I won't have to worry about topping up. Are there any other commuters out there? What are your thoughts? 

Monday, 7 November 2011

There is fire in the sky tonight x







So my flat was a bustling hub of activity this firework night.... I think not. Three of us were indoors participating in watching the fireworks for free from our entrance way. I was frantically moving my camera and Gorilla pod (small bendable tripod thing) around, adjusting the exposure to try to get some cool shots. I managed to take about 50 in total before they fizzled out and I've posted some of my personal favourites above.I'll definitely be playing with long exposure again in the near future. What did you get up to this Bonfire Night? x

To see more of my photos please visit my Flickr page here http://www.flickr.com/photos/57811197@N04/
Or my Instagram page here http://web.stagram.com/n/swingsandroundabouts/ 

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Meal planning

Saturday-

Breakfast- Bagels, scrambled egg, beans & OJ

Lunch- Home made carrot soup & pitta bread

Dinner- Left over curry

Sunday-


Breakfast- Bagels, scrambled egg, beans

Lunch- Pitta bread, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and olives

Dinner- We ended up in our local spoons eating a kids 'roast' (microwaved?) dinner. Was pretty nice at half price, setting me back just a couple of pounds. A further two more pounds for a drink and £1.70 spent on pudding. After being thrifty over the last few days it was a nice way to finish off the weekend. Headed home in a food induced coma and swiftly fell asleep shortly after!

Monday-


Breakfast- Porridge, cinnamon, flaked almonds & sultanas & coffee

Lunch- Home made carrot soup & pitta bread, yoghurt & apples

Dinner- Chicken fajitas

Tuesday-


Breakfast- Chocolate ready-made porridge & coffee

Lunch- Home made carrot soup & pitta bread

Dinner- Home in the evening


Wednesday-

Breakfast- Whatever I can rummage from home

Lunch- Same as above

Dinner-  Chicken stir-fry with vegetables and coconut rice

Thursday-


Breakfast- Porridge, cinnamon, flaked almonds and sultanas & coffee

Lunch-Home made carrot soup & pitta bread, yogurt

Dinner- Chicken Korma & rice

Friday- Off work


Breakfast- Toast & peanut butter

Lunch-

Dinner- Pasta with tomato sauce



Saturday, 5 November 2011

My first follower and a frugal weekend

I just thought I'd say a huge thank you to the blogger over at 'Never too old' http://nevertooldtolearnfromyourmistakes.blogspot.com/ who has become my first ever follower! I've enjoyed some Saturday morning reading over in your blogging corner and it has some great advice, particularly the mention of this forum http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?t=1384751 looks very interesting and I'll be investigating further.

Now this weekend will be of the frugal type, as I'm saving my pennies for the next two weekends as we are off up t'North next weekend. We're staying in a hotel in Leeds (found on a discount website of course- think it was called Late Rooms) and travel has cost us each a bargainous £7.00 each way thanks to the ever reliable MegaBus- though sometimes I wonder just how they make their money, but hey I'm not complaining! And the weekend after that is my birthday night out.

Seeing as this weekend (5th Nov) is set to be wet and rainy, my bf is at work practically for the entirety of it and the usual suspects at our local are away I think it'll be pretty easy to do.

Last night, and this may seem pretty dull to most people, me and my housemate made a regular trip to the supermarket. Over the last few years we have become fed up of battling the trolley traffic which the isles are heaving with on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Instead we can shop in tranquility on a Friday night and it keeps us out of the pub too, which is always good for money saving and what's great is that you can wake up to a fully stocked cupboard on Saturday morning and enjoy a lovely breakfast. On the menu today is scrambled egg and baked beans with seeded bagels- yum, can't wait- washed down with some coffee.

I usually pay for the food shopping with our joing account card but due to not having a bank card at the moment I've been having to use the joint card to pay for stuff, so I owed our joint account around 62.00. Last night I had £40.00 cash and it really made me prioritise my purchases as I didn't want to get to the counter and do the embarrassing thing of putting stuff back. I roughly added up the shopping as I put it on the conveyorbelt and I estimated around £41.00 and it came in around 40p over my guess! The bargains I picked up were two fajita kits which were half price at £1.50, and a huge bag of carrots for 76p which I'll make loads of carrot soup with- which will be my lunches sorted for next week.

Today, it looks pretty wet and miserable so may hit the gym as I haven't been all week followed by some batch cooking, and I really want to do some photography as I haven't done any in ages. I was thinking of experimenting with some long exposure shots of the fireworks- I'll be sure to post some of my creations on here if they work out okay. Tomorrow my mum and dad want to come over to go bike riding in Richmond park (weather permitting) and then want to go out for dinner with me and the bf for my birthday-hope that means they're paying!

How are you spending your weekend? If it's frugally I would love to hear the plans! Enjoy x

Thursday, 3 November 2011

This week's freebies



Today I had the pleasure of enjoying a lovely Nando's lunch, starters and all completely free of charge. It seems that on a fairly regular basis the media companies we use thank us for our business by taking us out, or putting on some entertainment along with free food and drink. This time the people from the job site Monster.co.uk came over and about twenty TMPers descended on Nandos in Holborn.

Luckily we had been able to reserve a table for a window of 45 minutes, and when all the orders were put through the list looked just like Father Christmas's present list! Surprisingly, no -one had ordered exactly the same meal and after stuffing our faces with as much chicken as possible and daringly having a go at the chicken roulette (a plate of chicken wings of varying spicy-ness,with one killer wing lurking admist the other cooler spiced wings-which was purely for entertainment value of course). The organiser from Monster was unlucky enough to select the offending wing, and after putting it into his mouth turned a bright shade of crimson. He also had carrot coloured hair, so looked an interesting site to say the least!

On our sluggish return to the office we all felt the effects of what an only be described as a food coma, but as always free food always tastes much better than when you have to pay for it so we were all a happy bunch for the remainder of the afternoon.

Elsewhere, the Metro newspaper also had some promotions within its pages; namely a 2-4-1 voucher for Christmas coffees at Starbucks (yep, they're available already and Christmas is still more than six weeks away) and a voucher for a free bottle of vitamin water at Tesco. The paper is stored safely in my canvas bag ready for when I get a chance to tear the coupons out.

What have you found/obtained for free this week? xx

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Budgeting

I downloaded a clever little app for my iPhone a few months ago which allows you to track everything you spend in the month. At the start of the month you enter in your budget for the next four weeks, and it has several categories including utilities, groceries, hobby/entertainment, pet, household, clothes etc.

If you ever want to see where all your hard earned pennies are disappearing to I would highly recommend downloading this money management app. Best of all, it was free too so tracking your finances needn't cost you a penny.

And best of all you can save all of the data on your iPhone and export it to excel for future reference.

How do you work out and stick to your budgets?

xx

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Meal planning

Over the last few years while I have been trying to save money I've found it's essential to do a big weekly food shop, usually at the weekends to stock up on food for the next week. This is because otherwise we tend to find ourselves nipping to the local, rather more expensive shops or reaching for the take away menus or heading out the door to eat out.

Since moving to our new flat six months ago, which is situated on top of a shop amongst a parade made up of every type of takeaway food you can think of its too easy to think sod it lets just go to the fish and chip shop- however, I don't particularly want to eat fast food for dinner every day, nor do I want to spend a fiver on food at lunchtime. Therefore, having the cupboards stocked up means I can (usually) rustle up something relatively healthy in a hurry.

Here's my meal plan for the next week:

Monday-

Breakfast- I had a half day so made sure I used up the last egg and the last of the milk which went off today. I made scrambled egg and baked beans on toast, washed down with a coffee.

Snack- Some sushi from the big pack I bought from the Korean supermarket at the weekend. The sushi from here tasted sooo much better than supermarket sushi and at £3.00 I got three servings out of it too. Two apples from my mum's apple tree sliced. A packet of Halloween pickled onion Pombears stashed in my desk draw.


Lunch- I made some thick Japanese noodles and put them into miso soup which I took into work. It wasn't one of my tastiest combinations and think I will stick to noo

dles with stir fries in the future.

Dinner- I chopped up the last of a courgette and red onion clearing out the vegetable draw, cut up some tofu and stir fried with fahita spices. I wrapped the mixture in tortillas smeared with some mayo, and it was delicious!

Tuesday-


Breakfast- Porridge with cinnamon, sultanas and flaked almonds with a thermos of coffee for the train.

Lunch- Pasta with homemade tomato and vegetable sauce from the freezer which I made a few weeks ago.

Snacks- Two apples from the apple tree. These are the last in the cupboard, so tomorrow I'll go home to re-stock my supplies.

Dinner- I'm heading home for dinner tomorrow so it will be something homemade by my mum.

Wednesday-


Breakfast- Ready made Chocolate porridge from a sachet, or perhaps something more interesting depending what I can find in my mum's kitchen cupboards.


Lunch- From home.


Dinner- Tofu, frozen stirfried vegetables and coconut rice.

Thursday-


Breakfast- Porridge/cereal/toast and coffee.


Lunch- Leftover dinner from last night.


Dinner- Jar curry sauce, rice and chicken (need to buy)


Friday-


Breakfast- Porridge/toast/cereal


Lunch- Out for lunch at Nandos with Monster.co.uk, there's nothing tastier than free food!


Dinner- If hungry after Nandos will probably have something simple and light like baked beans on toast.

What will you be eating this week? Do you plan your meals in advance? xx