Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Juggling money so everything fits

The car is back, but what a shocker of a bill. Although it wasn't far off the amount I estimated, it was still a shocker. Paid for with the Tesco credit card so at least I get the points. So, my bank balance is set to take a dive next month when it goes through, already my mind is working out how I can save money elsewhere to limit the pain. One of the easiest ways is to take stock of my food stores, how much have I got in, and how many meals can I cook out of the ingredients I already have without buying more. It's all a juggling act, drop a few balls, and gather a few up from somewhere else. Resist the temptation to scream and shout and shed a few tears, just bite the bullet and get on with it.
This is my stock situation at the moment, I've done an inventory. There are no hidden rusty tins at the back of the cupboard, no ancient packets of dry goods ten years out of date, and no rotting smelly gunge hidden away at the bottom of the freezer. Everything I have in my stores is edible. I keep on top of the situation by regularly checking what I have in, and use everything in date order. I don't care if tins and packets become out of date, they are used on the basis of oldest first. Here is my list.

4 Tomatoes
2 Red kidney beans
1 Macaroni cheese
4 Chick peas
4 Mushy peas
4 Spaghetti in tomato sauce
7 Baked beans
3 Rice pudding
2 mandarin segments
1 Peach slices
12 Grapefruit and orange
3pkts Sultanas
4pkts Wholemeal pasta
1.5 kilo Brown rice
.5 kilo Couscous
1 kilo Red lentils
1 Mug shot (pasta)
2 Instant noodles
250grm spaghetti
1.5kilo Porridge oats
Huge bag Bran flakes. 3.3kilo
8 Wholemeal bread rolls
1 Wholemeal loaf
500grm peas
100grm sweetcorn
1 Quorn quarter pounder
3 Quorn burgers
1 Vegetable burger
3 pots home made curry soup
225grm Brazil nuts
Block of cheese
Pkt Ravioli 250gr
Pickled onions
Pickled beetroot
Soft cheese spread
1 Ltr Soya mik
2 cartons Cranberry juice

I called in Tesco yesterday after I picked the car up, I was too early for the real bargains, but got a few pence off here and there. As I was looking around I was dismayed at how much prices have risen just lately, I almost felt like giving up eating altogether as a protest. In the past when the price of the food I normally buy goes up I look for a cheaper alternative, that is getting harder and harder to do. Even the cheaper alternatives are now too expensive. I only spent £7, just didn't feel like spending any more.
Maybe if people cut down on the amount they eat, reduce their meal sizes, stop eating snacks, stop buying fizzy drinks, then the supermarkets will be left with a lot of unsold stock on the shelves, and maybe that will lead to more yellow stickers as they fail to shift it within the sell by date. But alas, I can't see that happening, they will continue to stuff themselves silly as they watch their debt soar even higher. 
Anyway, looking at the above list, there are a lot of meals I can make with what I already have. It's time to tighten the belt for a couple of weeks or so, to recover the money I spent on the car. A lot of people will have different priorities to me, fair enough, their choice. Don't feel sorry for me, I am not in food poverty, I do not need to visit a food bank. I could splurge out on a massive online shop at M & S if I so wish, but I choose not to, that would be too easy. I prefer the challenge of creating simple meals out of very few ingredients. Here's one I made yesterday. Boil some wholegrain rice in a pan. Put half a tin of chopped tomatoes in a microwaveable dish. Add garlic puree and half a teaspoon of wholegrain mustard, and some frozen peas. Stir and microwave, and again, until piping hot. Add the cooked rice and hey presto, a cheap risotto. Eat out of the dish to save washing a plate.   
My elevenses today. A peach sliced, black and green grapes, all bought last week, still OK. Yesterday I bought a reduced punnet of strawberries, I went through the whole lot inspecting them carefully and washing them. Then I graded them. Some had to be eaten immediately, some will be eaten tomorrow, and some will last a few more days. The fruit and veg assistant was stocking the shelves and I saw he was putting out large boxes of strawberries for £3.50. There's no way I would pay that, sorting through my punnet was fine by me. There was only one mouldy one to discard.
I have one peach left so I'll have another bowl like this tomorrow. Then I will substitute a banana for the missing peach, the next day.

Be creative in your cooking to save money. Toodle pip.


  1. can you make up batches of food for the freezer with what you have left. I do this so that we can just take it out as needed. I buy cheap bags of carrots and make carrot and lentil soup to have with naan breads or small rolls that go in the oven. I know as we come towards retirement that we will have to get more ingenius as everything seems to be going up. I could imagine you being a brilliant bed and breakfast host for walkers who need a bed for the night. Now that could bring in some much needed income. Just a thought
    Worcestershire Anne

    1. Hi Anne. I do freeze portions of soup and stew, but only if I have bought some ingredients in bulk because they were on a yellow sticker, much reduced. I don't routinely batch cook, as I prefer my food to be freshly prepared. Frozen food is not quite the same as fresh.

  2. It's a shame the car repair was so costly, but at least it is done and you are not in debt, and won't be from the sound of things. Thanks to you, I now have an inventory of my larder and enjoy cooking experiments. Best of luck with the car.

  3. Looking at the list of what you have I think you are OK for a day or two!! and I agree with you that 'finding' odd tins or mouldy things at the back of the cupboard is bad planning and poor housekeeping. The price of food nowadays you have to make sure you know exactly what you have and use it up.

  4. I could eat that fruit salad right now!
    Jane x

  5. Being creative in cooking is really very fun and satisfying l find. After a whole month of very little money due to a bill on our car, the cupboards are now as bare as old mrs Hubbard's. One single tomato rolling around in the vegetable drawer :-). All six of us have eaten well due to creativity every day and l feel grateful for that, not everyone has food to eat on a daily basis in this world. Tomorrow l am again in a position to stock up food. Lots of creativity and homemade meals coming up again and a minimum of nonsence food such as snacks and fizzy drinks. Pam

  6. Glad you got your car back.
    You've got enough food to last for a little while, with maybe a top up of fresh fruit and veggies to get you by.

  7. Someday I hope to be able to pay cash for car repairs too...I recently moved in with my mother because of her dementia...she has a cupboard full of food that I can what I've the challenge of using it up...she even enjoys my cooking...but frowns on eating from the pan...

  8. Loved reading your plans.
    You are such an inspiration.
    Wendy (Wales)

  9. Our grocery bill costs us $30-40 more than for the same amount last year.

  10. Unfortunately the car and computer are two things that are hard to do without, but both are costly to maintain or replace. We tried going without a car for 18 months thinking that we could do everything on the bus with our bus passes but it just didn't work out. Sometimes I'd love to throw my computer out of the window but know that I would be lost without it.
    As for food prices Ilona, I am stunned every time I shop when I see the increases that are going on everyday items. I shall be interested to see how you manage to cut down.

    1. Hi Briony, I would feel trapped if I didn't have a car, I need the freedom it gives me, albeit at a cost.

  11. Looking at your food list and knowing how inventive you are there are lots of good nourishing meals there, with just a top up shop for fresh stuff you'll be fine while you recoup the cost of the repairs.

    I love putting bigger things on either my Tesco or M&S card (depending on which we're using at the time) and knowing I'll at least get some points and therefore 'free' food every quarter, it's only done knowing of course that the full amount is sat in the bank anyway waiting to pay the bill at the end of the month.

  12. Good post. Being creative with what you have in your pantry is such a money saver. I know so many people who are in poor financial situations and say that they just don't know how to do this. It's trial & error mostly.... some creations turn out tasty and some don't ;o)

  13. Hi Ilona,

    You said "My elevenses today"...sorry, but what does "elevenses" mean? We don't have that expression over here. And I found this post so inspiring.


    Nancy from Northern California

    1. Hi Nancy. Elevenses is a snack break midway between breakfast and lunch. It is usually a coffee break with a biscuit. At around 11am people have a little something to keep them going until lunch at 1pm.

    2. Thanks Ilona for answering my question and what a great idea too!
      Nancy from Northern California

  14. Hi Ilona, good news that your car is back on the road but bad news about the bill. I suppose tax, insurance and fuel can be budgeted for but there is no way of knowing when repairs are needed. Luckily you have your fund but a lot of people would end up in a mess. You've also demonstrated the importance of having extra food in. Hopefully we're all learning about making the money go round.

  15. I put every single thing I can on a rewards credit card of some kind or another. I save the receipts carfully and check my statement and pay off in full every month. Made a fortune this year on a airline credit card - they gave triple miles for May and June. Now I have got free travel for the two trips I plan to take. This only works if you are extremely disciplined (as you well know)
    There is always something you can cut out of the budget even if you dont want too. I never buy junk food or flavored drinks and the next thing I would cut out is toilet paper, I d manage somehow, people did in the past, the price is gone rocketing up.
    The freezer is great if you use it properly. Never cut out decent food though, big mistake as you get older.
    Glad you got the car back............

    1. if you have a farmfoods near you, try there toilet rolls, a pack of 9 for £2.50 or 2 packs for £4. and they good quality so you dont need a lot. ad I stad on mine prior to putting on holder so they don't whizz round as much.

  16. My mother and sister are both amazing with money. When they need to pay something off they pull in the food spending. It is amazing how much can be saved by cutting back and living off what one has.

    You are an inspiration.

  17. What a wonderful, healthy meal. You're doing a great job.


I will not be intimidated by the stupid comments coming my way. You have the problem. I am happy in my own skin.