Mrs Williams

Thrifty Thursday is Back!!

I’ve been falling behind in my thriftiness, and in blogging it! In the last week I’ve spent more money than I have in any other week of my life excluding my wedding week…and we’re only renting our new house so it seems a little crazy! Plus our house, whilst being gorgeous and local to our church and a real ‘home’ for Matt and I, its a new build (I know, I know, gasp and sigh, from this lady especially I reckon), so lots of my dreams of thriftily re-inventing my kitchen or making beautiful vintagey artwork is going to be out of place here…sad times.

I also think it’s easy to believe that the thrifty things we do are just normal, and that everyone does them so they’re not mention worthy…However, lately I’ve been realising just how differently everyone manages things (This mornings discovery that Mel manages to buy food for 3 for £30 a week when my shopping bill is never less than £50 for example…) so I thought I’d get on my high horse about…FREEZER FOOD!!

Now, as previously mentioned, I have friends who manage their shopping a LOT more cheaply than I do, and I am jealous of that ability, however we also have friends who spend a shed load more than us, and from what I can see their food isnt as yummy or healthy as what we eat. I am married to a committed carnivore, which never does make for cheap meals and I happen to be a food fanatic, and love planning, making and eating great food…so we find ourselves in an expensive trap! However, I am a recent convert to the joys of making and freezing. I know some people have questions about food once it’s been frozen, but for us its just such a good way to have good food regularly.

So on Saturdays I make me up a big batch of soup which i whack in the freezer in 10 portions and Matt and I take them to work for lunch…come to think of it, making your own lunch instead of buying it is a whole thrifty blog of its own, because when I started dating Matt he was genuinely spending £20-£30 a week on lunches from the shopping mall next to where he worked, and now it costs about a fiver a week for the two of us! Two of my favourite filling lunch recipes are here

Minestrone

Chicken Noodle

Then, throughout the week, unless its a real basic meal like pasta, I make enough for 4 people. I have a massive Le Creuset dish which is ideal for whipping up mammoth lasagnes or moussakas, and my slow cooker is in regular use for excellent stews. Then, once we’ve had our fill, the rest gets put in the freezer. Provided I can dissuade Matthew from pinching all the meaty bits into his original portion, we then have another meal for another evening in the week. In fact, Friday night is usually Freezer Food night. Which is ideal as I’m usually too knackered to manage cooking much more than toast on a Friday.

I do find that frozen/reheated food doesnt QUITE taste as good as the original stuff, but basically it’s pretty great, and adding a drop of water during the reheat works wonders at restoring stuff to its former glory. As does adding a bit of grated cheese…cheese improves most things. I also work increasingly to avoid microwaving where possible, I reheat soup on a hob whenever I can and will pop other stuff in the oven for a bit as I just find anything thats been in a microwave tastes a leetle bit like aeroplane food. The main thing is that, as with everything, the bigger the quantity of anything you buy, the less you pay for it. You know how mince beef is £3.99 for 500g and £6 for a kilo in Tesco? So the more you buy, the cheaper it works out. (Just to be clear, I dont and wont shop at Tesco!!)

So, invest in some decent tupperware and get going!! Here are a couple of favourite freezable recipes to start you off

Mellow Meatballs

Delia’s Moussaka

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Thrifty Thursday: Food Co-Ops

So, this week I’ve been feeling a little unqualified for Thrifty Thursdays…not sure I’m doing enough thats thrifty.

However, one thing that I do pride myself on is cooking and baking most of our food from scratch. I dont think I realised that that is actually pretty rare, but I basically dont use ready made foods, and dont even use many (I’d love to say any, but i’d be lying) packet mixes or jars of sauce.

We’re moving house next week, and will be just a bit too far to keep shopping at the farm shop we usually go to, so I’ve been looking around for alternatives…and that is how I discovered food co-operatives. The concept being that if people get together, and then buy in bulk, they can get lower prices direct from suppliers. For people who want to buy organic foods, this is a good way to be able to do it in a…wait for it…yep THRIFTY manner!! These co-ops are run by the community for the community and operate on a not-for-profit basis

http://www.sustainweb.org/foodcoops/

This website contains a list of local cooperatives, including a few in our fair Southampton. Im not sure there is anything here that orders as regularly as we might need for lots of things, but bulk items and baking stuffs might well be doable. If not, we may have to look at starting our own.

Im so convinced by the concept of organic food, but Im also assured in my hatred of supermarkets. Selfishly I think this would be an excellent way for me to keep my tummy, pocket and conscience happy. But I also think there is something beautiful about people taking control of their food needs and know a little more about where their food comes from, and what a great community activity, getting together to box up your orders, or to split a massive bag of rice amongst five of you. wonderful!! I’ve contacted a couple of local people to see how we can get involved in this so will keep you posted…

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2012

So, if I dont write this today, it’ll be redundant as I’ll probably have already failed at one of them….wow, positive attitude… but I wanted to write a bit about my New Years Resolutions. I love a fresh start, and like the idea of resolutions, but wanted to make this years a little more realisitic than my usual ‘be someone other than who I am’ resolutions. Certainly, in work we do target setting with the young people and the targets have to be SMART, meaning Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. Obviously all of the resolutions are time-bound in that I hope to achieve them this year, but I’ve tried to make them fit the other criteria too.

1) I am going to read the bible in a year

Matt and I are attempting this one together. Neither of us have ever read the whole of the bible, which seems silly as we profess to believe in it. We also both know that we want to go deeper in our faith, and reading all of the bible this year, along with the natural need to make time in every day to explore our faith, seems like a good way to start that. We have found a plan which gives a bit of Old Testament, a bit of New Testament, a Psalm and a bit of Proverbs every day, so we’ve started that.

2) I am going to read more

I want to read at least 12 books this year. I often find I dont sit and read enough because I always feel like I should be doing uni work if I’ve got time to sit and read, but I need to read for pleasure as well.

3) I am going to learn to cook more interesting stuff

I am going to attempt at least one new dish per month. I’d like to do one per week, but there are some weeks where thats not realistic, but by the end of every months I should be able to report a book I’ve read and a dish I’ve attempted (although most interesting new food discoveries appear on http://www.muchadoughaboutmuffin.wordpress.com)

4) I am going to exercise properly

Last year, I got into decent shape for the first time in my life, with some intense aerobics efforts in the lead up to our wedding. I lost over a stone and felt really good. However, despite not having put on much of this weight, I have done no exercise since, and I realise that my future health needs me to do exercise not to lose weight but to be fit. Initially I plan to do the aerobics again for a few weeks to try to get toned up again, and then try to do a combination of regular walks, yoga and maybe some cycling if I can decide to get myself a bike)

5) I am going to be greener

Anyone who has read this blog before will know that lately I’ve read a book about being eco-friendly. This year I want to make sure that I keep learning, questioning, and trying to change the decisions I make to ensure that they make for a more sustainable life. I am so happy with some of the things we have been trying to do, but I want to do more, and I want to feel that I can actually make a difference.

6) I am going to continue my quest to make things.

Until 2011 I had never attemped anything remotely craft-like, believing wholeheartedly that I couldnt do it. But then my lovely mother-in-law encouraged and helped me to make my own wedding invitations which I was incredibly proud of. My making went from strength to strength in the lead up to the wedding, with me making 100 mini jars of chutney, 85 cupcakes and our table plan. I then learned to knit, although only the very basics, and made 9 scarves for friends and family for Christmas. I also made Matt a handmade advent calendar which was, frankly, pathetic, but at least I tried. This year I want to do more knitting, and also want to crochet a blanket for our new niece/nephew due in June.

7)  Pass my degree

8) Get a job

I will, obviously, update with how all of this goes.

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Man does not live by juice alone

This weekend I attempted a juice detox…

I have struggled to have any motivation to be healthy since the wedding, and have enjoyed food and lots of sitting on the sofa with my new husband. I havent actually put on much weight, but I feel pretty grim. So the theory of the juice detox is that you shove some vegetables into a juicer and it does everything to the veg that your body would normally do to it, so that your gut gets a rest. You then (supposedly) dont eat anything else for 7 days, and by the end of it, after headaches, spots and mood-swings, you look and feel amazing.

So I started on Saturday with Carrot and Ginger juice…it was pretty good. Then lunch was orange juice which was amazing. Then dinner…ahhh dinner…it was all going so well until CABBAGE AND CELERY JUICE

Genuinely hideous

One of the worst things i’ve ever tasted

and I was so freaking hungry, I couldn’t resist a portion of Anna’s beautiful Moussaka.

So I failed.

Thats the whole story really

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Getting Married…The bits noone tells you

So, as they are the things freshest in my mind, I thought I’d start by telling you a little about our wedding and honeymoon. We really did have a wonderful time, and feel massively pleased with how everything went. However, i don’t mind telling you, just because we’re friends, that I found the whole experience somewhat surreal and not at all what I had expected.

Matt and I did our wedding on a pretty tight budget, and actually loved it that way. With the help of a few friends, we made a lot of the stuff happen ourselves, sourcing and making decorations, favours, and what seemed like a million cupcakes. This meant that we really felt that the wedding was “our” day, and as we decorated our reception venue, we felt that we had made it very personal and lovely.

Another somewhat unusual thing about our wedding was that we had two!! The venue we fell in love with wasn’t registered for marriages, so on 25th June with just our parents and two friends as witnesses we got legally married and signed the register. Then a week later, in our beautiful mansion house venue, we made the same promises to each other again, but this time with friends, family, bridesmaids, bouquets and, yes, cupcakes!!

So, here are some of the things I discovered and learned during that experience

1. I am a worrier, and for the 6 months we were engaged I worried about every little detail. I dont think I’d ever had such a focussed issue to worry about before, so this highlighted my tendency to fret.

2. I dont sleep well when I am worried

3. I’m not that nice when I dont sleep well

4. No matter how much you worry in the lead up to a wedding, there is no way to fully understand how little the things you are worried about will matter to you on the day. There are some big things (dress, hair, make up, groom turning up) that OF COURSE have the power to affect your day, but those weren’t the main things I was concerned about. I spent so much time worrying about tiny things like what colour to paint my toenails (which couldnt be seen), and whether the shades of green of the bridesmaid dresses matched closely enough with the boys ties, and whether we would have enough food for the guests in the evening, and honestly, when it came down to it a) they didnt matter and b) even if they mattered to anyone else, I certainly didnt notice them or worry about them on the day.

5. On your wedding day, you dont transform into an elegant, refined and softly spoken princess-type bride. If you’re a gangly, gobby, slightly-too-fat-around-the-hips kinda girl, you’ll be a gangly, gobby, slightly-too-fat-around-the-hips kinda bride too. That doesnt mean that it wont be a lovely day, or indeed that being yourself at your wedding is in any way a bad thing, but I think I expected to feel much more bridal. I’m not a girly enough girl for that, and i basically felt and, at times, looked a bit awkward.

6. No matter how tired you are, you wont feel it at the wedding. I hadn’t slept properly for 3 weeks prior to our wedding, but once I got into the dress and saw my gorgeous bridesmaids walking down the aisle ahead of me, and grabbed my Dad’s arm, I had a rush of adrenaline that kept me going until I got on the plane to honeymoon.

7. You wont remember the walk down the aisle…no matter how much you think you will, or you try to take it in, its just a blur in the memory within 5 minutes.

8. Everyone is happy for you!! Someone described it to me as being like Christmas multiplied by a thousand in terms of the good wishes you get from people, and that was spot on. People were so excited, happy and lovely, and that made everything that much better.

9. Getting married, legally, is remarkably easy!! Getting unmarried is a lot more difficult!! (Dont worry, I’m not considering it…) Our legal wedding, including register signing, and a few photos for prosperity, lasted 15 minutes. I signed 3 bits of paper and I was Mrs Williams. As I have married a divorcee, I know that getting “un-married” is a lot more time consuming, costly, and painful. Whilst I am not suggesting for a second that we make it easier to get divorced, it does seem preposterous how easy it is to enter into a lifelong commitment to somebody. Thankfully for us, because we were also having a religious service, we had a lot more guidance to make sure we knew what we were getting into.

10. and thats it. Not just for what I learned, but also for the day. Its over, as quickly as that. All those months of preparation, all the details you spend hours perfecting, all the excitement and nervousness is over so quickly. And then you’re married. Matt and I went on honeymoon very early the morning after the wedding, and we were both exhausted and pretty emotional. But then we woke up on Monday morning, and it was just us, looking at each other and realising that this is the way it will be forever. I know that people always warn about the dangers of being too obsessed with the wedding, and never was that more evident than on that morning. Thankfully, as previously mentioned, I wasnt born to be a bride. We were pretty relieved it was all over and so excited about being married.  We have loved looking at photos and re-reading messages from people, but we’re ready now to put the wedding in the past and the marriage in the future.

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