Saturday, April 30, 2011

Holiday - day 5

The market was on again this morning and although I'd have enough to last me to next Wednesday I don't usually get to it before work so went to get a few more things to get me through to next Saturday.

Market spend:
164g turkey salami = 3.85 (23.50 per kg)
2 x litres milk = 2.40 + 3.00 deposit on bottles
1 x small yoghurt = 0.89 *
366g cheese = 3.26 (8.90 per kg)
2 punnets strawberries = 7.00 (first of the season - they had some on Wednesday but I was too late so went early today)
1 bunch (a kilo) rhubarb = 1.50**

*Unfortunately they've stopped making their own yoghurt, which was available in re-usable containers and although the yoghurt they are now selling is also from a local farmer and free-ranging, grass-fed cows, it's in a normal throwaway plastic container.  So I bought an extra litre of milk and one small yoghurt to start me off and will be back to trying to be organised enough to just make my own yoghurt. And I've told them why I won't be buying yoghurt from them anymore.
** From the florist - asked if they use chemicals or if it's essentially organic and she said they use an absolute minimum of whatever is necessary and since for rhubarb that's really basically nothing, I went ahead and got it from her rather than paying the 4.60 for the same thing from the organic farmer.  Sometimes I feel like he is just taking the piss to be honest - I am prepared to pay a mark-up for organic as it does involve more work but rhubarb?  That, in my experience, pretty much grows like a weed and doesn't need a whole lot of care - certainly not enough to justify a nearly threefold price increase.

Otherwise, today I have done very little.  I didn't make it out to the launderette yesterday evening after all, the storm kept up for a good while so I settled in to watch some internet telly.  So I went today and got the other sofa cover and a duvet that I use for guests washed.  I also stripped the bed and threw the bedclothes into the washing machine at home and that's nearly dry now after hanging for the last few hours so I'll put the same duvet cover back on this evening, which will save me having to iron it (I don't feel bedclothes really need to be ironed normally but it does make a difference to how much space they take up so if they're going into the blanket box, they need to be ironed).  I'll use the summer duvet and then all I'll have to still wash is the winter one I've just taken off the bed.  In fact, I am considering heading back out to the launderette now just to get it done and finished with.  There'll be a shower and clean nightie this evening, all the better to appreciate the freshly made up bed!

And as promised, here's the photo heavy part.  Some pictures of my living room from a couple of weeks ago.

 The pile of ironing (okay, it looks slightly worse than it is because underneath all that is my knitting bag too).

Complete with bits of paper on the floor - wonderful.  Actually they blew on to the floor because I had the window open to air the place out but having said that, they did sit there for at least a week before I picked them up.  There is a name for this which I read about in Tescopoly but I don't have my copy anymore (who did I loan it to?) - basically if there's a house with a broken window, it's more likely that other damage will be done and people will be less likely to keep things clean and orderly.  Similarly, if the place is such a mess anyway, what difference does it make if there's a couple of pieces of paper on the floor.

The big couch - not entirely cover in stuff but that's really only because I always kept space clear to sit on.  Since the desk was completely covered it has been months since this was the only place I had space to sit and use the computer as well.

And now for the after.  There are still areas of not a bit messy but lets face it, clearing the CDs away from near the stereo is never going to last for more than a few hours anyway until the next time I'm listening to something.
Lovely, lovely clear space and my lovely red cover back where it belongs.  I do prefer this one so much to the basic cream one.
No more ironing to do!  Although I've just put on a wash of what I've used this week thinking I might as well be fully ahead before going back to work on Tuesday.  Will iron all of that as soon as it's dry - I love to sit in this chair and read.
Still more to be done but two piles is more manageable than what was there before.  Hope to do a few minutes each day over the next few weeks.  And more importantly, not add to it, which means getting back into the proper habit of dealing with stuff as it arrives.

Here's something else that I still need to tackle but is just going to have to wait until I have more days off or an unexpected surge of energy - one of the big cupboards in the hallway:

Actually, the towels, tablecloths and so on are a bit more orderly already as I needed to sort them out to fit in all the stuff that had been languishing on the armchair of ironing.  I could probably do with decanting the plum vodka into bottles at this stage.
But the lower half of this cupboard needs some serious work.  I'm not really even sure exactly what's in there anymore.  The white plastic bag is a few bits and pieces I had nowhere to put and needed to get rid of out of the hall before some guests arrived for dinner at some stage and it has just sat there since.  I don't know if you can see it clearly but the jar of chutney which got knocked over last summer and leaked all over the place for a couple of weeks before I discovered it is in at the back there - I was sure I had cleaned that all up but apparently I didn't even get around to righting the jar.  So I really need to get in and clear that mess up.  What's in there is actually stuff from 2009 because since I hadn't actually gotten around to clearing out this cupboard last autumn, I never got around to putting away all of last summer's stuff.  That has mostly been sitting on top of the hallway table - covered by a nice piece of material whenver anyone was coming over.  At least I've used up a good bit of it now.  But long past time to be sorting this out I think.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Spending recap - week 17

For as long as I manage to keep up daily tracking, I'm just going to go ahead and post a summary each week. But without reasons or justifications or excuses. Sometimes I'll spend money I shouldn't on things I don't need and I'm not looking for comments on on silly that is, believe me, I already know.

Food necessities = ordinary food, essentially three meals a day kind of stuff
Food luxuries = anything not really necessary to keep me fed, mostly junk like chocolate, crisps etc.
Canteen food = eating out or getting something delivered if I don't bring lunch to work
Transport = anything above and beyond my monthly ticket.

  • Transport 2.60
  • Food necessities 20.74
  • Food luxuries 35.20
  • Canteen food 0.00
  • Toiletries 0.00
  • Gifts (incl. postage) 3.99
  • Clothes 4.50
  • House/garden 46.55
  • Medical 0.00
  • Other 18.40
Total spend this week: 131.98
Total spend this month: 457.57

Food luxuries and other are high this week due to being on holiday - these amounts include dinner out with book club as well as several cups of tea/hot chocolate and snacks in cafes (I even went to the Starbucks on my road for the first time since moving here nearly three years ago - sooo expensive for a bad selection of herbal teas and a not very nice muffin, really not worth it).  House/garden is the money spent in the launderette plus the steam juicer and sage plant I bought.

I've posted this early as it's the end of the month - I generally run my budget (such as it is) from Saturday to Friday but I've been doing these spending recaps from Monday to Sunday so there'll be a slightly too early one at the end of each month.  And I can't interest myself in changing either of those two things so it'll just stay that way for now.

Edited to add that this month, I had just eight no-spend days.  And I strongly suspect that most of those were just days I didn't leave the house at all.

Food Waste Friday - 29 April 2011 and days 3 and 4 of holiday

I do have some waste this week but mostly as a result of finally admitting that a couple of things that were in the fridge were never going to be used and just biting the bullet and getting rid of them.  Pure waste.

A small amount of wild garlic cream cheese.  Why did I not just eat this with some of the soda bread I made last week?  No idea.  I had to get rid of some of that bread as well as it went inexplicably rock hard within a couple of days - gone to the ducks in the park so at least not a complete waste.

The olives and gherkins have been there since, I think, the end of January.  I brought the jar to a friend's house for a potluck dinner and she insisted I take the remainder home with me.  I sort of assumed I'd drag them out the next time I had someone over for dinner but haven't had anyone here since then.  Although I like olives a lot I really can't stand anything from the gherkin/cucumber family and the olives in that jar have a gherkin taste so that means I have no interest in eating them.  If I was starving I would.  But I'm not.  So I won't.

And finally a small carton of sour cream.  Which I bought for a specific recipe that never got made.  The expiry date was from the end of February so although it's sealed and it's sour cream (which the internet tells me can stay usable for baking well past the expiry date if it's unopened) I've gotten rid of it.  I'm not likely to do anything with it in the next few weeks so will err on the better safe than sorry side.

Food Waste Friday is hosted by The Frugal Girl

Other than clearing stuff out of the fridge I've done a few bits and pieces around the house.  Yesterday I scrubbed the bathroom from top to bottom, kept up on the washing and the washing up and otherwise read a lot and went for my groupon neck massage and pedicure then watched a very silly film in the evening.  Today I woke up ravenous so the idea of spending an hour doing housework before breakfast did not appeal at all.   I ate breakfast and read for an hour then tidied up the fridge, did the washing up and swept and washed the floors.  Along with more washing, folding away the dried stuff and hanging up more to dry. 

The friend who lived with me last year for a few months left some stuff here, among other things clothes and bedclothes.  All of which, although clean, still had the damp musty smell from his old flat in them.  So I washed a few just after he left and then forgot about them.  But I wanted to start using that wardrobe properly so it needs a good cleanout and I finally got the last of the stuff washed today.  I think I've done two washes every day this week to get through it all but as the weather has been warm, it's drying quickly so that's good.  I'm packing it away into a suitcase as it drys - have no patience with him taking up my usable space anymore but since I can't afford to hire a car and drive the six hours or so to where he lives, I'm just going to pack it away and let it sit out of sight until someone else is visiting him. 

After a nice lunch of bread and cheese with some chutney, I read for another while, waiting for three o'clock to roll around so that I could put the washing machine on again (not supposed to run it or do anything else noisy during half-twelve and three).  I also phoned a few recruitment agencies to start getting a move on in that respect.  Have to email them my CV and references and we'll see where it goes from there.

And then I started sorting a few things out in the sitting room as I wanted to put away the rest of my bedclothes and they live in the blanket box which also serves as my coffee table.  Rather than just moving the stuff off the top of that onto the couch, which I have to admit I sort of planned to do, I just started sorting through it.  There were receipts and things from the last couple of times I emptied out my purse and instead of just putting them to one side I took out the folders with my bank and credit card statements and actually sorted them properly, attaching them to the relevant statements and even clearing a similar pile from my desk while I was at it. 

That ended up taking far longer than I thought (as it always does) - over two hours.  I also sorted and cleared away all of the choir stuff that has been lying around for a few weeks (I was looking for a particular piece of music and ended up starting to sort years worth of stuff out and then getting sidetracked and just leaving it all in a messy pile on the couch - and the concert I needed it for was in mid-March so it was past time to get rid of all that stuff again). 

So, all of the bedclothes have been put away - I've taken out a lighter sheet to swich over from using the heavier flannel that it's getting too warm for and will change that tomorrow.  Since that meant the big couch was nearly free of mess, I cleared everything else off it too, took off the cream cover (which was only supposed to be temporary while I got the other one cleaned - the one that sat down in the cellar for about a year and a half and only got washed this week) and put back on the newly cleaned red one.  Feels good to have things starting to fall into place again.  I still have two very large piles of papers and stuff to go through but it has been a good start.  I was going to head out to the launderette to get the cream sofa cover cleaned and we had a massive thunder storm with torrential rain.  I think the rain has just about eased off now so I think I'll have dinner and do it after that.  They're open until after ten I think.  Will post photos of my newly cleaned space tomorrow - although it's not raining the clouds are still very dark so I'll wait until sunlight to take pictures.  Oooh, there's some more lightning and the thunder is following it almost immediately.  Might wait until tomorrow to venture out.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Spending on day 2 of holidays

Today I went shopping.  To make sure I don't have any unexpected cashflow issues at the weekend I used my credit card to pay for some clothes and as that won't be included in my weekly spending recap, which is cash/debit card, I wanted to get it all down now.  As soon as I get paid the money I spent on the card will go into my savings account to pay the bill at the end of the month - I do have it but just in case we don't get paid tomorrow as expected, wanted to leave myself that bit of leeway.

What I bought on the card were some much needed clothes for work - particularly needed if I want to go for interviews.  I do still need another pair of light summer trousers - I got two last year but one of them has already been repaired twice and I just don't think it's worth getting them fixed again.  Will see. 

C+A - 3 blouses + 1 t-shirt top = 65
C+A - 1 fleece = 4.50 (this was a totally unnecessary splurge buy, reduced from 19 and won't get used till next winter probably but as splurges go, 4.50 is on the more reasonable scale)
Toasted sandwich, hot chocolate + tip = 7.00
Half a loaf of spelt/yoghurt bread (organic) = 1.55
1 packet of 20 plant clips to send to my brother = 3.99
Bookclub: salad with fried potatoes + eggs, 1 fizzy water and 2 shandies + tip = 17.00

Market spend:
4 x apples = 0.50
1 x sage plant (organic) = 2.50
1 x lettuce (organic) = 1.50
6 x eggs + 3 x large carrots (organic) = 3.07
1x litre milk (unpasteurised) = 1.20 (+ 1.50 deposit on bottle)
148g cream cheese with wild garlic = 2.21
4 x slices cooked ham = 3.82 (18.90 per kg)
2 x slices leberkäse with wild garlic = 0.44 (12.90 per kg) - leberkäse is another type of cold meat, sort of a pate/meatloaf type concoction

The other thing I have spent money on this week is a steam juicer.  I had decided while having a bad weekend to do some window shopping on ebay with a view to buying one in the summer sometime.  There were two second-hand ones for sale that I was keeping an eye on and when the second one was still at 3.50 half an hour before closing on Monday evening I decided to put a bid on.  A new one in the shops, shinier but smaller and more lightweight, cost 69.99 last year.  I kept to a bit less than my ebay limit of no more than 20 euro including shipping and ended up being the highest bidder at 11.05 - with 7 euro shipping that's 18.05 for something I know I will use a lot.  I'm very pleased and if I'm honest, although I know shopping won't fix things and I need to be careful not to spend money I can't afford, I think that small 'win' on Monday evening meant disproportionately more to me than it should, but in a good way.   Small amount of light in an otherwise dark day.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Holiday - Day 2

Bit of a late night last night - got out of the cinema around half-nine and went for tea and a chat afterwards so it was nearly eleven by the time I got home and then I read for a while before sleeping.  Seven o'clock was difficult this morning and it was actually half-past before I got up.  Took a while to get going but I started in on the ironing and then just kept going.  Stopped for a break to have some breakfast, put a wash on and a couple of time to check emails, as well as finally getting through to the central dental billing place to make sure there's no penalty for paying off the last bill early, but kept going back to it until it was all done just after eleven.  That includes all the bed clothes and some winter stuff that has been sitting there since February.  Feels good to have it done and the ironing board and iron put away. 

I made a quick trip to the market and bakery and am now catching up on some blogs.  Need to dig out all the documents I need to bring to the renters' association and will head off there in a hour or so.  After my appointment there, I'm going to wander around town for an hour or two, sit and read somewhere for a while perhaps and then head to book club.  The days are flying by and I'm trying to ignore the voice in the back of my head telling me how nice it would be to never have to go back to work. 

Tomorrow I need to do some serious work on my CV and make some phone calls.

Jersey Shore in the style of Oscar Wilde

I've never seen Jersey Shore but I looked it up the other day because people do keep mentioning it.   And then today Stephen Fry tweeted about this and I have to say it does make me giggle:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Holiday - Day 1

Trying to move on from yesterday's very bad day (the tears just kept coming sometimes prompted by something, sometimes not - I hope a late appointment slot opens up soon with that therapist, not sure waiting much longer is a good idea).

Anyway, I set the alarm for 7 today and got up at 10 past, after only snoozing it twice.  That's progress at least.  7 is the time I would like to start getting up until the winter again - gives me an hour to myself before getting ready for work instead of dragging myself out of bed at quarter past eight and rushing to get to work on time.  My hour of housework hasn't quite worked out.  It took me fifteen minutes or so to get moving after getting up (toilet, brushing teeth, getting dressed).  I decided to just try and get the stuff done that I didn't get to over the weekend, which should have been easily achievable in an hour.  But then I started getting stuck into the kitchen properly.  I've done the dishes, cleaned the oven, cleared off all the crap that was collecting on the windowsill, finally (nearly a year later!) put the two-ring hotplate that used to be my cooker away and gave the small electric oven a good scrubbing and packed that up as well to go down to the cellar (and it's outside the door already so I have to bring it down next time I leave the apartment).  Haven't done the top of the fridge yet though, which is the other magnet for stuff to gather.  Still, what I did along with general cleaning and tidying and putting a wash on, took me more like an hour and a half.  For the last half an hour I've been checking emails, done some online banking, phoned to make an appointment for a massage and pedicure (a 19 euro groupon, I was supposed to go to the chiropodist soon and that costs 35 so for less, plus a neck massage, an ordinary pedicure will do for now) and checked my diary for what else is on this week that I have to do. 

Right, it's after half-nine, I need to do the hoovering and then that is it for housework today.  I think I may take my book and head to the launderette with the second couch cover - it's down in the cellar in a suitcase and it's the one I'd prefer to be using anyway.  Will take that and the summer duvet and spend an hour reading my book while they wash.

Update at 15.00:
Did the hoovering, got the washing hung up and another one in the machine.  Sat and had a nice breakfast (rice krispies, a banana, a cup of herbal tea).  Gathered everything up for going to the launderette.  Just before leaving decided to move the two smaller aloe vera plants from the top of the veg holder to the newly cleared windowsill.  I badly need to repot the aloe veras and thought moving them would remind me.  Of course they were all tangled up and I promptly knocked one over so less than half an hour after finishing the hoovering I ended up with soil all over the kitchen floor and newly cleaned windowsill.  Sigh.  At least I did actually clean it up immediately, even if it did delay me getting out.  One newly cleaned (again!) windowsill and floor, a nice long shower and some clean clothes later, I finally made it out the door.

Went to the launderette, stopping in the cellar to get the sofa cover (which was off course at the very bottom of the piles of stuff) and rearrange things there a bit better.  I even thought to stop at the bank to get change but of course the launderette is very high-tech these days and will not only take notes in the machine, it will give you change.  Unfortunately the XXL machine isn't all that XX so I had to do two loads - at 9 euro each, that is expensive.  It's a good thing the cover comes apart into two pieces.  I was able to do the summer duvet in one of the ordinary machines, which are still bigger than a normal domestic one.  That's 3.50.  I did try washing the smaller section of the sofa cover in a smaller machine but it really wasn't clean when it came out so I put it into the bigger one.  A waste of 3.50 but good to know for future reference.

Called in to the internet cafe on the way home to print out my groupon and chatted to a neighbour I bumped into for a few minutes when I came back.  And made it all the way up the stairs with the now heavy suitcase.  The duvet had to be tumble dried but the sofa cover is explicitly not supposed to be (it has that white material as a lining that can't be ironed or tumble dried).  I put it through an extra spin cycle but it's still very heavy while wet.  Hard to believe that all of that plus getting lunch on to cook (potato cakes with tuna and onion), finding somewhere to hang up the sofa cover (too heavy for the shower rail, which is what I had planned on) and taking the rest of the washing out of the machine as well has brought me up to three o'clock.  Actually, quarter past now.  Time to eat, relax for a while and then head out to meet my friend for the cinema.  Don't have to meet her until after half-six but I may wander a bit on the way and perhaps stop somewhere for an ice-cream. 

Monday, April 25, 2011


I've just sent an email to one of the main contacts for the garden to say that I won't be coming back for a couple of months.  That decision came a bit out of the blue, particularly since one of the nice things I was thinking of doing this week was taking the opportunity to go and garden during the week, which I normally can't do, but as I was reading the latest update email asking for details on who will do what for the open day in a few weeks I felt a wave of "just can't do it" rush over me.  I started to write an email saying that I wouldn't be back to work on Saturday mornings until maybe June and then realised that's only a few weeks away and changed it to June or July.  I was going to write something along the lines of 'but of course I'll help out for the open day' and I just couldn't do it.  I cried the whole time I was writing the email but to be honest I have been crying on and off all day so far.  Something had to give and I had considered giving up the garden for a while but felt that what I get back from it was enough to make up for the effort of going there.  But it's better to take a break and go back to it fresh than forcing myself to be up and out early every Saturday morning. 

I will try to use these next weeks to get back to some kind of proper routine, perhaps focus on getting a walk or a swim in and starting to lose some weight again.  I saw some photographs of myself taken on a recent choir weekend, the kind where you don't know they are being taken so haven't been able to hide yourself beside a conveniently plant or something.  I knew I had put weight on again but, based on how clothes are fitting, am not quite back to my biggest but these photos were just shocking.  I do not see that fat woman when I look in the mirror and the way I felt when I saw those photos combined with everything else that has happened over the last year and everything in work over the last couple of weeks has just gotten on top of me.

Last year sometime blogger introduced a stats function and since then I check every once in a while.  There is rarely a time when someone hasn't landed here because of searching "how not to get overwhelmed", which leads them to this post, which to be honest, will be absolutely no use to anyone trying not to get overwhelmed.  And I still don't know how to stop being overwhelmed by what life is throwing at me.  Throw in some guilt for feeling like life is throwing too much at me when I know millions of people all over the world and even probably dozens on the street I live on have it much worse than me.  But there it is.

I thought I had a point to this post but I've forgotten it if there ever was one.  I may need a nap.

P.S. Just as I was about to hit publish on this post, the song below came on the radio/internet (I've been listening to an Irish country station that I always loved when I still lived there).  It seemed to fit the moment:

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Spending for week 16 and holiday plans

For as long as I manage to keep up daily tracking, I'm just going to go ahead and post a summary each week. But without reasons or justifications or excuses. Sometimes I'll spend money I shouldn't on things I don't need and I'm not looking for comments on on silly that is, believe me, I already know.

Food necessities = ordinary food, essentially three meals a day kind of stuff
Food luxuries = anything not really necessary to keep me fed, mostly junk like chocolate, crisps etc.
Canteen food = eating out or getting something delivered if I don't bring lunch to work
Transport = anything above and beyond my monthly ticket.

  • Transport 7.00
  • Food necessities 24.45
  • Food luxuries 37.79
  • Canteen food 6.80
  • Toiletries 0.00
  • Gifts (incl. postage) 0.00 
  • Clothes 0.00
  • House/garden 1.93
  • Medical 0.00
  • Other 8.90
Total spend this week: 86.87
Total spend this month to date: 325.59

Another very spendy week although most of that is actually next week's budget and was spent yesterday on groceries.  I treated myself to a trip to the English shop because I had a craving for mini-eggs and the mark-up on stuff there is just ridiculous.  It'd be cheaper to fly to England every couple of months and stock up, which is why I only go there once or twice a year (well, I've been there three times so far since I moved here nearly three years ago - generally a taste of what I think I'm missing at exhorbitant prices is enough to convince me I don't really miss it that much - a sample price I noticed that most people can compare, I think, is Arm and Hammer bread soda, a 454g/1lb box costs €2.60/US$3.80).

I did bring my lunch in to work every day except the one day a week that I meet some of the other secretaries for lunch in the canteen.  And I ate dinner at home every day too - as well as lunch on the holiday and weekend.  Had a real craving for pizza yesterday, which I kept at bay by remembering first of all that I already had the last portion of bean casserole in the fridge to be eaten and secondly, by heading to Aldi to buy flour and deciding while there to get a frozen pizza.  In the end I decided on these small pizza baguettes, six in a box for €1.79.  They don't taste great but are alright.  Next time I'll add a bit of cheese (cheddar from the English shop) and they'll be fine. 

I have the next week off work and have a few things planned that will need money so it's not good that I've already spent most of the budget.  I was hoping to not spend the entire refund from the health insurance but will break into the rest of that to pay for what's happening this week - need to go to the launderette and get the duvet cleaned and badly need to do the couch cover as well (it has only been spot-cleaned so far - it's nearly three years later and past time).  And I need to send my sister her (January!) birthday present.  Things like that.  I should send my sister in France the christmas box I put together as well but it's kind of heavy so I've already told her I'm not going to and will put the money towards a ticket to go and visit them at the end of June.

Now if could just shake off this horrible depression and get moving on some things.  I have a document I promised to proofread for a friend at the beginning of the month but all the crap that has been happening in work (not to mention working every day until after eight) has sent me off in a tizzy again and I am having difficulty coping.  My plan for the week's holiday was to spend an hour before breakfast every day completing one task (finished in less than an hour okay, not finished then quit after one hour regardless).  Then a nice sit down breakfast with a pot of tea followed by an hour or so sitting in the armchair listening to the radio, some music and/or reading.  Spend half an hour on the phone to employment agencies to find out what the job market is like and/or preparing CV etc.  Maybe a short walk before lunch and then spend the afternoon out and about, going to museums or parks or whatever takes my fancy.  On Tuesday evening I'm meeting a friend at the cinema for an anti-nuclear film and talk.  On Wednesday afternoon I have an appointment with the renter's association to check my annual charges bill and then in the evening it's book club.  Now just need to find the will to actually get out of bed every day.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spending for week 15

For as long as I manage to keep up daily tracking, I'm just going to go ahead and post a summary each week. But without reasons or justifications or excuses. Sometimes I'll spend money I shouldn't on things I don't need and I'm not looking for comments on on silly that is, believe me, I already know.

Food necessities = ordinary food, essentially three meals a day kind of stuff
Food luxuries = anything not really necessary to keep me fed, mostly junk like chocolate, crisps etc.
Canteen food = eating out or getting something delivered if I don't bring lunch to work
Transport = anything above and beyond my monthly ticket.

  • Transport -14.00
  • Food necessities - 40.78
  • Food luxuries -31.17
  • Canteen food -36.81
  • Toiletries -0.00
  • Gifts (incl. postage) - 0.00
  • Clothes - 0.00
  • House/garden -1.99
  • Medical -0.00
  • Other -1.60
Total spend this week: 112.35
Total spend this month to date:238.72

A very spendy week with no cooking or preparation of any kind, which is always expensive.  Amazing how that happens as soon as the financial pressure is off a bit.  I did go to the market today and have bought more or less enough food for the next two weeks (market will be closed over the easter weekend I think).

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Food waste

Quite often on Fridays, I participate in the Food Waste Friday series hosted by the Frugal Girl, in which people blog and/or comment about what food they have wasted and had to throw out during that week.  Lots of people find it helps to keep them accountable.  I remember telling my brother about it and he actually got kind of angry about the idea that people needed to feel the need to shame themselves - it wasn't the reaction I was expecting because I know he tries never to waste food and hates food waste.  But at the same time I could see his point.  He has far less difficulty than I do in not succumbing to a lot of the 'normal' behaviour that is 'expected' of good little girls and boys and follows you in to adulthood.

For myself, I find it interesting to make a point of checking my fridge every single week, when before I would maybe only do it every month or so.  I'm more likely to use something up before it goes off because I am checking more frequently what's in there.

The thing that has really surprised me though is what some people consider to be gone off.  I noticed this when I visited a friend a while back as well.  I was completely shocked to watch her go to her fruitbowl and just start turfing stuff onto the counter to go into the bin.  Now, I don't generally eat supermarket fruit and veg but when visiting friends I don't turn my nose up at their choices for feeding themselves either so although it was really annoying to see the amount of packaging still attached to some of what she wanted to throw out, I didn't comment on it.  But I had to say something about the waste of fruit because even from where I was sitting across the table, none of it really looked bad. 

I stopped her getting rid of two bananas, which were just about to start getting brown spots.  Okay, I know bananas are a bit of a divisive topic and there are lots of people who won't eat them once they've gone past green.  But when I got her to show me the apples, they were absolutely fine.  They hadn't even begun to go even a little bit soft or wrinkly.  There were a few nectarines as well so although it felt very strange to be eating a nectarine in February, we both sat and ate one there and then and I had an apple as well.  Her reasons for wanting to throw the apples out?  'They've been there for at least two weeks I'm sure'.  How on earth are we at the point of just not knowing that apples can keep for months and months in the right conditions?  I've always known I was weird for not minding eating wrinkly apples but to not even look at them and just arbitratily decide to throw them out because they were bought a certain amount of time ago kind of blew my mind.  And we're not talking about a townie like me, this is someone who grew up on a farm.

Reading the blogs of other people talking about their food waste continues to astonish me with what people consider to be waste.  From those who won't keep or eat yoghurt or milk if it has been allowed to reach room temperature, to the green banana brigade, those terrified of eating chicken that has been out of the fridge for a short while (okay, terrified might be an exagerration and chicken, especially raw chicken, does need to be treated with care but overreaction seems to be very common) and those who think that if a potato has started to grow 'eyes' it has gone off (the fact that most potato peelers come especially equipped with a bit at the top designed especially to dig out the eyes should be a clue, folks).

It would be easy to just think that there are lots of stupid people out there but I know that's not the reason for most of this.  We're talking about mostly very intelligent people who just don't know.  I know when I was a young adult I was fairly slavish about best before dates and it's possible I still would be now - I just don't buy an awful lot of stuff that comes with a date on it.  And I know I can keep stuff fresh for ages by keeping it in tupperware but sometimes it just feels so wrong that something sitting in my fridge for a week still smells and looks okay that I might throw it out without needing to.

But learning how to tell if an egg is still fresh was one of the best things I ever learned.  Realising that chopping the bad bits off something solid is okay and that not everything that is mouldy will be mouldy all the way through was important too, as was finding out that this may not be a good idea for less solid foods, like jam, since the spores are likely to be all the way through and not just resting on top.  Knowing that if I did ingest a tiny bit of something that might be slightly gone off, it probably won't kill me is important (and I don't believe I'm the only person who has on occasion been so hungry they've taken a bite from a slice of bread before bothering to butter it and only when they do so look at it properly and realise it's growing something!).  I still have lots to learn and I'm very happy that I'm open to it.  Of course the biggest lesson to learn in dealing with food waste is to not buy so much.  I grew up in a very big family but I live alone now and I still struggle with figuring out how much to buy/not buy purely because I have all of these fixed ideas in my head from childhood of how much space the weekly shopping should take up.  Like so many other things, it's time and more to let go of the past - but very difficult.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Service costs refund

Arrived home from choir practice to find a letter waiting for me with the details of the annual reckoning for service costs in my apartment.  Every month I pay rent (called 'cold rent') plus service charges (cold rent plus service charges is called 'warm rent').  These service charges or Nebenkosten (literally 'side costs') don't always include heating but mine do.  You pay up every month and then once a year everything is tallied up, divided by either the number of people living in the building, the number of apartments or the square meters occupied, depending on how the costs are allocated, and then they figure out if you have overpaid or underpaid.  I didn't think I would have overpaid as much this year as I had my lodger living with me for three months at the beginning of last year and was fairly sure that would have had an impact, not least because he was very fond of using the heating.  But I'm actually going to get a refund of a bit more than last year.  So there should be just over 360 euro winging its way to my bank account next month.  Fantastic!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spending for calendar week 14

For as long as I manage to keep up daily tracking, I'm just going to go ahead and post a summary each week. But without reasons or justifications or excuses. Sometimes I'll spend money I shouldn't on things I don't need and I'm not looking for comments on on silly that is, believe me, I already know.

I have several different categories set up on my spreadsheet - I've looked back through the last couple of years and I've changed it a bit but not much. Mostly I just haven't used this part (although around March I seem to come back to it each year - takes the new year vibe a bit longer to kick in for me apparently). I'll see how things go over the next while and consider whether to add or change any categories.

I have food divided into three separate categories: food necessities, food luxuries and canteen food. When my brother lived with me for a while years ago after losing his job I would bring him with me when I went shopping. But I was kind of strict with him most of the time (how is it that it's always much easier to do something to or for someone else than for yourself?) and, for example, wouldn't buy him coke (of the coca cola variety, not the powdery sort obviously!) - I insisted that I would feed him but any luxuries he had to buy himself. And I still think of it that way - any chocolate, fizzy drinks (apart from water, which is about the only fizzy drink I ever do buy), cakes or exotic things that are above and beyond the basics needed to get three meals a day into me are considered luxuries.

Canteen food is if I don't bring lunch to work and eat either in the canteen, at a restaurant or order something to be delivered (including if I work very late unexpectedly and need something to keep me going)

Transport is anything above and beyond my monthly ticket.

  • Transport - 20.50
  • Food necessities - 7.17
  • Food luxuries - 10.21
  • Canteen food - 24.07
  • Toiletries - 1.65
  • Gifts (incl. postage) - 3.00
  • Clothes - 0.00
  • House/garden - 3.80
  • Medical - 10.00
  • Other - 0.00
Total spend this week: 80.40
Total spend this month to date: 112.37

I also finally got confirmation that the 345 euro refund from the health insurance will be hitting my bank account next week so that's good.

Food Waste Friday - the too ashamed to post edition

I had to throw out the inedible cake experiment, bread I just didn't bother eating (this week I ended up working 15, 11, 11 and 12 hour days - all after just being sick, it was too much) as well as most of the lentil stew I made last Monday.  I ate some of it then, some for lunch on Tuesday but forgot to put it into the fridge, didn't even go into the kitchen on Wednesday and by Thursday evening it was already mouldy - yes, the hot and humid weather is here to stay it seems.  I do like winter when the kitchen is nearly as cold as the fridge and you don't need to be worried if you forget to put something away but it can lead to bad habits.  I'm also getting rid of the hazelnuts and walnuts I never did get around to using.  Or probably anyway - they've been there since September/October and I suspect they may be somewhat rancid by now, at least the walnuts.  Oh, and there's about two glasses worth of milk still in the fridge that also need to go but I'm considering using to make something that usually uses buttermilk - need to read up on that a bit more.  After last week's disaster I'm not really feeling up to experimenting but I'm fairly sure I read somewhere along the way that slightly sour milk can be a replacement for buttermilk and I know you can add vinegar to milk to get a good substitute for buttermilk for baking purposes and it would be nice to rescue it.

Food Waste Friday is hosted by the Frugal Girl

Monday, April 04, 2011

Raspberry buttermilk cake - maybe

Back to work tomorrow.  I do feel better although yesterday morning it seemed like a bad throat was going to come back in force.  Not too many problems today though so back to the office for me tomorrow.  Having said that, I have very little energy, if possible even less than I had last week.  I'm just not sure how much of that is down to my general unwillingness to go back.

So, despite not having gotten up and done lots of things today in preparation for going back (small things like ironing clothes to wear, cleaning the floors, changing bedclothes) I have stirred myself to make some lentil stew (just had a taste and it is very underwhelming - disappointed at that), made some whole wheat muffins (as per this recipe although I got 15 bun size and 24 mini ones out of this amount, don't know how big they should have been to only get 12) and have just but a raspberry buttermilk cake in the oven.  Except I changed it quite a bit from the Smitten Kitchen recipe I was supposed to be following so I have no idea how or if it's going to turn out at all.

First of all, it is April so fresh raspberries aren't exactly something you are likely to have on hand.  But I do have all those pureed and semi-pureed strawberries in the freezer so I thought I could use some of them.  Knowing that there's quite a bit of liquid in the defrosted berries I rounded up the flour a little bit (the conversions from cups to grams are always difficult to follow anyway as I don't have a digital scales and non-digital scales show increments of 25 - which makes measuring 130g of flour difficult) and I added a couple of teaspoons of cocoa powder, thinking that might help to also satisfy my chocolate cravings during the week.  And as usual I just added a whole sachet of baking powder - I've heard lots of Americans complaining that the baking powder here just never works the way it does at home and so far, using an entire sachet (about 10g) works for me, even if the amount called for is less.

So we're all set, the dry ingredients are measured and mixed and waiting.  So I turn to the butter.  Only to realise that I used almost all of it up making the muffins and what I have left is barely enough to register on the scales.  I remember reading that lots of people substitute apple sauce for the fat in recipes these days and although a quick google tells me that's usually for recipes involving oil and that it's the beating of the butter and sugar which will make my cake light and fluffy, I have no more butter so what else am I going to do?  I 've opened a jar of my apple pureé from last autumn anyway to use in the muffin recipe and the rest of it needs to be used up.  I spoon some of that into the weighing scales with the butter to reach a bit more than the required amount, which from my quick google would seem to be approximately right.  Maybe.  This cake is straying ever further from the original recipe.

So I decide to beat the butter (and apple) with the sugar, which I'm supposed to do until it's pale and fluffy.  Hmmm, between the apple and the fact that I rarely have white sugar to hand and am using unrefined raw cane sugar, I don't think pale was every going to happen.  Finish off the batter and just before pouring into the cake pan pour what juice has come off the strawberries already into it and mix that in too.  It certainly smells nice at this stage.  Scatter the mostly defrosted strawberries over the cake and realise just as I finish that I never actually measured them.  Oh well, it wasn't much more than a cup I'm sure.

Put cake into oven and decide to quickly write this post as it's baking.  Halfway through remember that I forgot to sprinkle the sugar over the top of the whole thing at the end.  Dash into the kitchen and nearly burn my finger taking the still not quite baked cake out and throwing a bit of sugar over the top.  Where it will undoubtedly burn.  It was very liquidy feeling still (I have a silicon pan), despite having already been baking for the 20 minutes it seems to have taken most people.  I'll give it another five before checking properly.  My hope is that no matter what it looks like, it'll at least taste sweet.  No-one else but me will be eating it but it's supposed to be stopping me from buying any chocolate I can't afford this week.  Here's hoping it's one of those fiascos that turns out well.

Updated to add: EPIC FAIL!  Not even edible.  Very disappointing.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Another month, another payment

Well, made it through March.  Having been sick at home the last week has probably actually helped since there's been no temptation to impulse shop for something I didn't really need.  Sleeping most of the day has a way of really cutting down on your outgoings. 

April will be tight as well but May should hopefully be a little easier and then by June I will be finishing paying for the dental work and coming to the end of my loan.  So the end is in sight but I am very apprehensive about any unexpected expenses cropping up between now and then.  If my old dentist, for example, decides to play silly buggers and doesn't want to replace the crown that has broken, I don't know what I'll do.  But time enough to deal with that if it happens, I suppose.

As of today, here's where I stand:
  • Loan: 1,475.27
  • Credit card: 3,880
  • Overdraft: 2,440
  • Outstanding dental payments:  366.15
After paying all the other bills I have to pay this month, I have just over 100 euro for the rest of the month.  I have already put aside 20 euro to pay for dinner out with book club at the end of the month and I do have plenty of food at home already so should be more or less able to eat from the cupboard and freezer.  I'm going to give myself 10 euro to pick up a few things I'm running low on or have run out of completely this week (I did already pick up one or two things on the way home from the doctor yesterday - I got some frozen stuff and some beef to add to the rest of the leftover chickpea curry - 20 euro doesn't last long with that kind of shopping).  It won't cover all of it but whatever I don't get can wait.  This is the list I've been writing over the couple of weeks for things I kept forgetting to get or as they have run out/low:
  1. Tea tree oil (I use this for cleaning - have bought it once since moving here so although it can be pricey a bottle every couple of years isn't too extravagant)
  2. Sunflower oil (can buy local sunflower oil from the market)
  3. White wine vinegar (not very urgent, just want to have some on hand for the summer so I can make tomato ketchup)
  4. Cider vinegar (use lots of this, both in making things like chutney and for rinsing my hair - my stock finally ran out)
  5. Washing soda (use this with soapnuts for washing clothes as the water here is extremely hard - am down to the last one, time to stock up again)
  6. Popcorn (have been craving this recently and discovered what I had on hand was very old and definitely gone funny - but for a cheap, relatively healthy snack it can't be beaten)
  7. Eggs
  8. Spices (garam masala, amchoor, cumin seeds)
I'll probably just get the eggs, popcorn and cider vinegar this week and plan to get some of the rest of it towards the end of the month.  My aim will be to have a 'no money to spend this week' attitude for the next two weeks so that the last two weeks of the month will be a bit easier.  We'll see how that goes.