Our trip to London in February.

Husband and I finally had a long awaited trip away to London, just him and me. We had a lovely week away, just trying not to think about anything that worried us and to just enjoy ourselves.

We decided to stay in a bed and breakfast in the Bayswater area, which came with a hot and cold breakfast buffet. That way we could have a generous breakfast, a snack for lunch (mainly consisting of croissants and fruit from said buffet, squirreled away in Husband’s rucksack…) and there were a lot of nice local restaurants where we could have dinner.

Monday

We got the coach down to London and then the tube to where we were staying. Once checked in Husband spent the afternoon resting before we went out and had dinner at my favourite Chinese place. We shared half a barbequed duck, I had fried rice with shrimps and Husband had roast pork, rice and vegetables. Delicious.

 

Tuesday:

After a lovely, leisurely breakfast, we went to Westminster Pier for our guided tour on the river, followed by a ride on the London Eye.  We decided to go with both as a single for the Eye cost £25, but a combo ticket for the guided tour and entrance to the Eye cost £30, so a no-brainer!

 

The boat ride was very informative, but I secretly wished we had booked it for another day, as it was so windy we both sat there huddled together and with my teeth chattering.

Afterwards Husband wanted to look at weird and wonderful clothes, so we headed to Camden. He did not find anything he liked but enjoyed exploring the area. I found a dress however!

We then went to Hamley’s and while Husband could see that it was a huge and amazing toy store and why it would be famous, he was disappointed with the lack of Star Wars toys.

 

Having browsed all the floors of the shop we were both worn out, so decided to go to a quiet Italian restaurant for dinner before heading home.

Wednesday:

After having our lovely breakfast, Husband rested for a bit while I checked my emails, before we went out to the Sky Garden.
It’s a garden space on top of a building in London colloquially known as the Walkie-Talkie due to its shape. Entry is free but you have to book in advance online, and you get an hour to stay up there before you need to go.

Security is tight there, you go through an airport-style metal detector and your bags and coats are x-rayed before you are allowed into the turbolift. It takes you up to floor 35 in six (!) seconds.

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The lovely backing of the reception desk. All real plants too! Amazing!

 

 

There are several bars and restaurants up there you can eat and drink at but as one main cost £28(!) we decided to enjoy our time up there and then go find somewhere to eat afterwards.

Husband was still hankering for Star Wars stuff, so we went to Forbidden Planet and spent an hour browsing there. I had several presents I had to buy so we then went to Primark – naturally I found some things for myself, to replace some worn out clothes at home. Since I started my new job I have become conscious that many of the things I would wear to work in the past are not appropriate for new job, so I am gradually phasing out the most worn pieces.

We decided to go to the cinema in the evening. I suddenly had a brainwave – surely I can use my Tesco Clubcard vouchers to get us Cineworld tokens? I had a look and sure enough, they would be valid for London cinemas as well. So we went to see Alita: Battle Angel at the Cineworld at the O2.

Thursday:

Valentine’s Day! The weather was beautiful, sunny and most importantly, not as windy as when we went on our boat tour on Tuesday.
So we decided to take the Tube to North Greenwich and take the Emirates Cable Car over to the Victoria Docks stop.

 


It was a lovely ride, our only regret was not buying a return as we would have enjoyed it much more if we had stayed on longer.

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We saw these kinds of signs at a variety of Tube stations. It’s reaffirming to see that staff seem to be able to do these kinds of things and are proud of the station where they work.

We then spent the rest of the afternoon in Harrods, marvelling at how other people live. Husband especially enjoyed the Egyptian room, and the superfoods salad he ordered when we stopped for lunch in their cafe.

In the evening, we went back to my favourite Chinese place. I had my lovely duck and fried rice, Husband however decided to have this:

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Husband is far more adventurous than me. So naturally when he saw that there were deep fried pigs intestines on the menu, he just HAD to try them. In fairness he enjoyed them and I did have one to try. It just tasted vaguely meaty and spicy. 

We had a wonderful time away.

It was so nice and relaxing to just be, to not have to think about doing anything.

Like breakfast for instance. I didn’t have to buy the food, prepare it or wash up. I could just appear at breakfast, have whatever I wanted, and then swan off again. Return to our room to find the bed made.

Glorious.

I booked our B and B through Booking.com to get the cashback, and we travelled to London and back using Megabus, so it cost us £21 for a return for us both. I got cashback for this as well. While in London, I still looked out for and found jobs for the JobSpotter app and also got a freebie through Shopmium. So doing some frugal things and squirreling away, while enjoying ourselves, much to Husband’s frustration.

Deep down, he must appreciate it. I got us two meal deals to take on the coach back using my M&S gift card. As we left the store, I explained how we got it for free (Apply for M&S Bank account, get £125 M&S gift card, which is topped up with £5 every month if you keep your balance above a certain amount and have two Direct Debits go out of the account, spend in any M&S store and online).

He looked at me and said ‘that’s why I married you’. I said ‘how come?’ He explained that it’s because I’m so frugal with money.

Then he proceeded to say ‘if you were a dragon, you would be sitting on a hoard of treasure.’

I feel that’s very high praise. Treasure or no, I don’t mind being a dragon ^_^

 

 

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Silver Squirrels Away: Olio.

What is it?

In our quest to save money, I was recommended the app Olio. Olio is available both for iOS and Android devices. It is also a website.

The premise of Olio is that the team behind it want to combat food waste in all its forms.

So if you have leftover food, food donations, or if you’re going away on vacation but have food that needs using up, you can list it on their app. It has now been updated so you can list non-food items but I have primarily used it for food. It’s free both to ask for and request items and food on Olio.

How does it work, and how do you join?

To look at available listings, to list something and request items that have been listed, you have to login to the website or app, by creating a password for it. It asks where you are based so that it shows you offers available in your area.

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This is what my home screen looks like at the moment on my device. Different food is being offered, and it shows how far it is from my home.

I have mine set by default to 5 km from my home as I can get about on foot or on public transport, but anything beyond that would be almost impossible or pointless for me to try and travel to as I don’t drive or have access to a car.

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Lots of lovely fruit and veg! Sadly it says they are 38.1 kilometers away from my home, so there is no way I’d be able to get to it without spending a lot of time and money doing so.

If you see something you’d like, you send the poster a message and ask politely if you can be considered for the item. Then try to work it out between yourselves when and where is a good place to collect from. Some people can leave it in a safe place on their doorstep, some can meet you in a public place, some ask you to collect from their house.

Like certain messaging apps, the Messages section does tell you when/if a message has been seen by the other person.

When you join Olio, you are encouraged to create a profile and add your picture. This adds a layer of trust I guess? People who collect things offered by Olioers can also leave a star rating on how well it went – though it only shows a star rating after three ratings have been given. They can also rate you, the requester.

I’ve added the profile of someone I requested food from as an example below.

You have to use your own judgement in going to fetch food or giving something away. Many people prefer to meet in a public place, I have done this before and had no worries about it.
I have also collected from people in person. Before I go, I trust my gut, look at their profile and where it is. Sure, free food and stopping food waste is nice, but not at the expense of my personal safety.
Regarding collecting from the person, I always do this (as it’s common sense) but also do it when I am meeting someone to collect something from Olio: I always tell Husband where I am going and how long I will be.

What are the pros and cons?

Pros:

You can access Olio both through their website and their app. Great for people who don’t have a smart phone (like me, until May last year. I know. I was a fossil. ).

It’s free to join, request things and to advertise.

Sometimes there are posts that are weird or inappropriate, which I have reported by pressing the little flag next to the listing. It opens your email client and you can send them an email explaining why you don’t feel it belongs on Olio.

Olio does have guidelines on what can and can’t be shared.  They don’t allow perishable food that is past its Use By date (rather than best before, like on dried or tinned goods), though they do allow opened food! And they don’t allow counterfeit goods, animals or controlled substances to be shared either. One instance of this was a post from someone offering a half-eaten apple (!).

In my experience once you report something it is dealt with promptly, and you get a reply back to say what action has been taken.

Naturally, saving food from being thrown away or going to waste.

This is the food I have collected from Olio since installing the app in 2018:

If you’ve collected something, you get a report at the end of the month showing what you collecting that food and stopping it being wasted meant. You even get an annual report – this is what I did for the environment in 2018, apparently:

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Look at me, being all green! (and frugal)

You also get to meet like-minded people.

Cons:

These kinds of interactions….

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Delightful.

I dislike it when this happens, and it has happened to me a few times.

Look, I understand that it might not be a good time, or that what you listed might have been given away. But you could at least let me know, right? I wouldn’t mind, just let me know! There is one person in our area who has done this to me twice, answered messages initially but then not answered or looked at the app afterwards.

Frustratingly, you can’t give someone a rating until after they’ve been to collect something. So you can’t rate someone down for behaving like this. I have been invited to user surveys by the Olio team about my experience of using it, and have let them know about this and how discouraging it is.

But all in all, using Olio has been a positive experience and a real blessing for us, especially when things have been tight.
It stops food from being wasted and saves us money, two of my favourite things.

A Jaded January.

January has for the most part been a write-off.

Still, have to look for the positives.

Good things about January were:

  • We tried hard to save money in January. Both our contents and buildings insurance were up for renewal and we managed to save money there and earn cashback. By documenting our low income in 2017, I managed to get almost £900 written off my student loan. Husband did not start his new and improved job until the end of August 2018, so we may be eligible for a reduction for 2018 as well.
  • When I started feeling more human, I managed to get some reduced bargains and visited Foodprint.
  • The hospital managed to take the blood samples they needed from Husband after giving him some Valium and a bed to lie down on, and rushed it off to the lab. Thank goodness it was analysed in time, this time, as it showed that the ammonia level in his blood is now at an acceptable amount. This means a. no more blood tests for the foreseeable future and b. they will not need to adjust the dose and kind of epilepsy medicine he takes further. He has found the changes and repeat tests quite distressing, so this will hopefully help Husband’s mood.
  • My lovely mother in-law gifted me a lovely leather jacket, a pair of trousers and a nice skirt for work. I do like a good hand-me-down!
    I also managed to get a nice skirt from the charity shop for work.
  • Through the Recycle and Free Facebook group for our neighbourhood, I managed to get two brand new and unused ink cartridges for our printer at home. A mono and colour set for that printer normally costs us £30.
  • I went and had a wash, cut and blow dry from the local college hairdressing salon. As I wanted just a single length cut I could have a level 2 trainee to do it, and it cost me £7.50. Bargain.
  • I managed to use my John Lewis voucher and got my free hot drink and cake before work one Sunday.

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    Lovely carrot and pumpkin cake and a hot chocolate ❤
  • We sold several things on eBay, which all adds to the Vacation/Nice-To-Have Fund.
  • Our kind neighbour gifted us several lovely things as she was having a clearout.
     

Things that could have been improved about January were:

  • Husband and I have both been ill this month. Thank goodness Husband ‘only’ had a cough during the day and a nose like a tap so only had a lite version of what I had. I was off work for ten days, the longest I’ve been off ever from work.
    As a consequence of being off for so long I was put on monitoring by new job for three months. If I am unable to come to work at any point or take annual leave during those three months, it goes to the next stage of the disciplinary process which means a meeting with HR.
    I hope that HR realise that what will happen when you impose those conditions is that if people who are unwell during that time, will be forced to come to work even if they are not well, and thus have a very good chance of passing whatever bugs they have to their other colleagues. Or, heaven forbid, the patients.
    I also discovered upon returning back that all the work I would have done in those ten days had just been left. No shelving, no admin, no nothing. So I spent my first week back panicking as I did all the jobs and admin for that week, on top of everything that had been left for me from the ten days I had left.
    Maybe it’s because I am young and haven’t experienced a lot. Or that I had a sheltered upbringing. Or it could be both I guess?
    But I am used to from home and from past jobs that if someone’s off ill or busy, then you help them. Or at least ask if there is anything you can do to help. I did not expect that everything had just been left for me to do when I returned back. Nor did anyone offer to help me.
  • Mom still is not very well at all. She has not been home since Christmas, but has spent time at the nursing home and been admitted twice due to a high CRP count. I rang her in the week and she is still delirious.
    We have booked our flights to go see her at the end of April (can’t go any sooner due to stupid three month monitoring period).
  • It has been very cold. Don’t want to think of how much money we’ve spent to keep the house and us warm. But can’t let it get too cold for Husband’s sake and to ensure the pipes in the kitchen don’t freeze. It looks like the worst of it is over now, so will try to peg the washing out this week again.
  • Due to me feeling like death, we had three takeouts in the space of ten days….

Here’s to a better next month. We are going away a week in February Just Husband and me so we are looking forward to that.

 

 

 

Christmas gifts in 2018 – how did we do?

Now that Christmas is over and done with, how did we do on the present front? How much did we spend and how was it paid for?

Like last year, we did a Secret Santa for the adults on Husband’s side of the family, so we only had two people to buy for (plus the children, naturally). I did buy gifts for others though. This was paid for not in small part by using the vouchers and gift cards squirreled away from doing surveys and taking part in focus groups, very similar to last year and the year before.

I still used our cut-price gift-wrap, ribbons and homemade tags to wrap with rather than buying any new at full price, and sent Christmas cards from the stash of cards bought last year in the sale.

So what did we buy and how was it paid for? More importantly *gulp* how much did we spend?

Gift for friend: Tolkien’s Treasures book, £9.69, paid for with Amazon gift card.

Gift for sister in-law: Spa voucher, £25, paid for with credit card.

Gift for mother in-law: Two packs of spa toiletries, £10 paid for by credit card, book on textile printing, £15, paid for with Amazon gift card.

Secret Santa for Work: Pack of Spa Toiletries, £5 (this and the ones for mother in-law were part of a buy 2 get a 3rd free). Didn’t cost anything as part of offer, score! Though must remember to bring the Boots gift card for next time!

Middle nephew: Rice Wine, £19.89, paid for with Amazon gift card.

Sister: Bottle of Strawberry Pimm’s, £15, paid for by Amazon gift card. Part Christmas present and part birthday present. 3 books, £10.18, paid for with Amazon gift card.

Brother in-law: Lambswool slippers, £8.94, paid for with Amazon gift card.

Other friend in Norway: Two packs of Walker’s Shortbread, £15 paid for with credit card.

Youngest nephew: Helped pay for Just Cause 4, £15, paid in cash.

Oldest nephew: Pokemon cards he wanted from eBay, £12, paid for by PayPal fund.

Kind neighbour: Hotel Chocolat dark selection, £13.28, paid for with Amazon gift card.

Oldest niece: The Greatest Showman Revisited CD, £9.99, paid for with Amazon gift card. Also gave her several bags of sequins I’d been gifted, to put towards her sewing projects.

Other young nephew: £20 towards games for his Christmas and birthday presents, paid in cash.

Husband: a £40 software pack he wanted for his project. Paid for by credit card. Christmas card, £3.29, paid for by debit card.

Mom: Pairs of thick socks and thick leggings for comfort, £12, paid for with credit card.

Dad: helped pay costs towards buying and sending him a book, £20, paid in cash.

Gift for friend in Wales: pralines and chocolates, £7 (includes posting it to him), paid for with debit card.

Nieces: Now this one was a bit unusual but it turned out better than expected. I had bought both my brother’s girls clothes, but was unsure if they would fit (both girls are big and strong for their age), so ensured I kept the receipt safe in case I needed to return anything that didn’t fit them.

Having a tidy out of my cupboard at my sister’s place once I arrived, I then discovered that I in fact had presents there I’d left and then forgotten I had left for them….How silly is that! How could I have forgotten?
As it turns out the girls loved the presents (I’d forgotten about), so once back in England I was able to take the clothes back to the shop and return them. That saved me a good chunk of money.

So some presents were paid for with my credit card (purely for the Clubcard points mind you, and paid off in full every month) a few were paid for in cash and by debit card as that was easiest, £167.29 all in all. But some of the presents were paid for by what I have squirreled away with my surveying and eBaying, so £113.97 of what we spent.

I think for next year that I will try to be even more organised, and use more of the gift cards we have to buy presents, rather than rely on cash and cards.

One thing I have done differently this year is that I haven’t really taken advantage of the January sales to buy my usual selection of much-reduced Christmas cards and gift wrap.
Firstly, this is due to the fact that I was really unwell for the first two weeks of January. I couldn’t even sleep at night for coughing for the most of it, and I certainly did not have the strength to go browsing the shops.

I have however also realised, looking in our stationery drawers, that we, in fact have plenty.
We have plenty of gift wrap, gift bags, and Christmas cards, probably to see us through another Christmas if not longer. And gift tags for years, as I have carried on making gift tags from the Christmas cards we receive.
Sure, things might be cut price in January but I have to unlearn this habit of buying stuff because it’s reduced. Humans generate far too much waste and I think what I may start doing is look out for rolls of brown paper when it’s cheap, or other means of wrapping presents.
A lot of gift wrap can’t be recycled and it’s not something I want to contribute to.

I wonder what next Christmas will be like? One thing is for sure: Husband will have time off work.

Yes, he’s been given the annual leave he applied for in November 2018, for next Christmas. So that’s already a present in itself, in my opinion ❤
His presence is a present ❤

 

A Diverse December.

Have suddenly realised January is almost gone, and I haven’t written my summary of December yet.
In my defence, most of January has been a write-off.

December was a very mixed month.

Good things about December were:

  • Christmas. For better and for worse. I got to spend time with Husband, Husband’s family and my own family. Ate far too much. Have been eating the leftovers well into this month. Thank goodness I had them as I didn’t have the strength to cook much the first two weeks in January.
  • Husband was given a £10 Christmas bonus from the DWP, added to his PIP payment.
  • I won a £100 Paypal gift card from one of my surveying panels. It was promptly added to my Travel/Nice-to-Have Fund.
  • I got some lovely bargains and managed to rescue food from going in the bin at work.
  • Husband finally had his toe operated on. Thank goodness for Mother-In law who could look after him for me while he was recovering from the general anesthetic.
  • Husband’s SAD light came, and he has been using it regularly to help his mood.

Things that could have been improved were:

  • Christmas. Mom was very unwell all through Christmas, and we made the decision to have her admitted on the 28th as she kept deteriorating.
    She still is not out of the woods completely. She has not been home since the week before Christmas, but has been at my sister’s house, at the nursing home and been admitted to hospital twice. Too unwell to stay at home by herself.
  • I felt quite unwell in the last week before Christmas. I thought I had shaken it off, but clearly not.

 

Keeping track of the grocery spend: August, September, October 2018.

(You can read the Preamble here, which explains all the different categories and how we budget, and what is and isn’t included).

How did our grocery spend look for August, September and October last year?



August 2018.

In August I was still off work for the summer. We were very much under budget that month. We spent £89.59 out of a budgeted £130 this month. So £40.41 under.
Getting food from the reduced aisle (hell-o, 4-pack of bread rolls for 8p!), Foodprint, Olio and Shopmium all played their part in keeping costs down.

food chart aug 18food table aug 18

Our meat spend was low for this month, £6.20. Largely attributed to that we were still eating a lot of the food my sister gave us, and finding reduced food when going grocery shopping. As it was so warm we also at a lot more cold food such as salads, so lowering our spend on meat, while our fruit and vegetable spend was a healthy £12.81. Even more than the snack category, which is a bonus.

Again, diary comes out as the category we spent the most on in August at £19.51. A lot of cereal (with milk), tea-drinking (with milk) and cheese eating is to blame.

August 2018 was a mixed bag for us. We got to travel to Wales and Stonebridge City Farm. But Husband did not feel very well for some of the month. And we got our letter to say that Husband’s PIP hearing would be taking place in the beginning of September.


September 2018
Good grief.

It’s either the famine or the feast.

Even with Skintember going on, we still managed to spend £150.90 on groceries that month. £20.90 over budget! Gah!

So how does it break down?

food bar chart sep 18

food chart sep 18

One glaring category here is the dairy one. Good grief. £26.48. When going through the itemised spreadsheet I can see that a lot of our dairy was bought at full-price with a order I placed through Sainsbury’s as I had a voucher to use up.

Meat was also high at £33.69, again due to buying a large order in from the shops. And we’d finished what my sister and her family had very kindly given us.

We continued to use up and get as much out of the toiletries at home before buying new ones, this meant that we only spent £0.50 on personal care in September. Why yes, I have a huge stash, why do you ask?

I think September went over for a variety of reasons. We’d not spent a huge amount on food the month before, in fact we were £40 below budget that month, so had to stock up on different stuff. Pet care was quite high for September as we had the food order delivered with several bags of cat litter to keep us going.
We attended Husband’s PIP tribunal hearing that month and had an agonising wait for their decision for that, which impacted our mood and what we ate. Note the snacks category:(
Plus even though we were on Skintember, I still had to keep up appearances so as to not worry Husband, and had to buy food.
To help costs I did spend a lot of the Tesco and Sainsbury’s gift cards I have accrued from earning rewards from surveys. Normally I save them for birthdays and Christmas but needs must.


October 2018

 

food bar chart oct 18

food table oct 18

Ah, back to normality. In October 2018 we spent £65.38, so we were £64.62 under budget that month. That’s over half our grocery budget we didn’t spend!

October’s grocery budget spend was sponsored by visiting Foodprint, getting food from Sharing Sherwood, stopping colleagues from throwing food in the bin and volunteering to take it home, and getting reduced bargains and deals from Olio and Shopmium.

October was still a very tight month for us. Austober was in full swing for all four weeks, and we mostly lived on the food we had bought the previous month. This is reflected in our spends for this month. Very little was spent on any of the categories – with the exception of dairy. Of course. Can’t do without milk, now can we?

Bakery is very low this month, but looking at the itemised sheet I can see that we got quite a few loaves for 15p each, which helped bring the cost down.

We did not spend a lot on meat, as we were still using up what I bought the previous month, supplemented by some reduced food. I was hoping to fill our freezer again with the food my sister purchased and gifted us, but that went right out the window when I was forced to throw it away.


Looking at August, September and October combined, it doesn’t look too bad. If you squint. In total we spent £305.85 on groceries those three months, and that equals a very manageable £25.48 a week for us both and the Cat.

Silver tries the Too Good to Waste box from Lidl.

In 2018, Lidl, a grocery chain here in the UK, announced that they would be trialling a Too Good to Waste scheme at several of their stores.

The premise is that rather than throwing it away, the stores create Too Good to Waste boxes, filled with fruit and vegetables that can still be eaten but just don’t look their best and so wouldn’t be sold in the shop.
Each box weighs about 5 kilos and costs £1.50, and are available for the first hours of the morning when the shops are open.

I went to Lidl on a Sunday morning in December, at about 10.30am to try one of these boxes. There was one left to buy at this stage, as they have proven quite popular.

This is the box of fruit and veg I purchased for £1.50, still at the shop:

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Once home I took it all out to have a closer look at what I had bought.

So what was in my Too Good to Waste box?

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900g grapes. Look at them. All juicy and delicious. One box grown in Peru and another in Namibia. To think that they’ve been grown and flown all the way to the UK. And would have ended up in the food waste bin if they hadn’t been put in the Too Good to Waste Box. What a waste of resources and time that would have been.

 

 

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900g of Brussels sprouts.
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A 2.5kg bag of potatoes.
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A butternut squash, 1.4kg.
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Five apples, 750(ish) grams.
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A single pear, 250g.
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A single persimmon fruit, 250g(ish).
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Two courgettes, 650g.
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And finally, 38 (!) clementines, about 2.4kg.  Yes, I counted them all.

We have now eaten almost all the fruit and vegetables in the box, and I can most certainly say we would buy this again.

We had so much fruit and veg from this box, for very little money. I had a good look at it all once I got home. One courgette was slightly bruised as was the persimmon fruit, and one of the clementines had started to go squishy.
Apart from the single clementine, all the fruit and veg was good to eat and has now been eaten. This provided us with a lot of good healthy food for our lunches and dinners. I took a whole bunch of clementines to work, and it provided a substantive amount of my snacks when I travelled down to London to see my family.

One thing to bear in mind is that because these are sold as ‘past best’ they may not stay as fresh as long as other produce would. This didn’t happen in our experience as none of it went off before we had a chance to use it.
Also bear in mind that the boxes are different each day, depending on what they have had to withdraw from the produce section. You never quite know what you might get with these.

But if you are skint/want to save money/want to stop food waste, I can recommend the Too Good to Waste Box from Lidl, without hesitation. I would say to get to the store early, as they have become increasingly more popular. When I bought mine, it was half an hour after the shop had opened, and the one I bought was the last one.

It’s not available in all UK stores as it is still at a trial stage. They have a list of stores where it runs here.

To illustrate how good this box was: I took the grapes to Husband’s family to share on Christmas Day as part of a buffet lunch. Husband’s mother and sister were all very impressed with the box, and both said that if I hadn’t told them it came from the Too Goo to Waste Box, they wouldn’t have known.

I think that sums up our experience of buying this box, really.

The first part of January.

Blergh.

The first part of January looked like this, for me.

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On the 2nd, I started feeling ill again and rather than doing all the errands I was hoping to do before going back to work, I went home.

And stayed there for the best part of 10 days.

Due to how suddenly it came on and how severe it was, I think I may have had flu.
I was coughing so hard it was making me vomit and keeping me up several nights in a row.
Husband tried to look after me as best as he could.
One night I decided to defrost one of the shepherd’s pies I had made before Christmas, as I reasoned that while I did not want to eat anything, Husband had to eat something.

Naturally I was just peeling back the foil, the dish tipped off the counter and smashed on the floor, pie and dish pieces flying.

I just stared at it for the longest time.

My throat was so sore I couldn’t talk. So I just let out this strangled, high-pitched cry, while feeling like doom.

Husband came running, saw my face, saw the mess on the floor, and gave me a hug. Then he said to go upstairs to order myself a Chinese takeaway, and that he would tidy up.
He bought me flowers to cheer me up ❤
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The first part of January has been a write off, for the most part. Have had and finished a course of antibiotics, so hope that will be enough as I can feel that something is coming on again. Just coughing all the time and feeling warm and blergh.

Still tried to be frugal, even though we’ve had three takeaways in the space of ten days…

Our neighbour had a clearout and gave us some lovely things as she no longer needs them.

I am so chuffed with these things. It means we can replace our weird and wonderful we-don’t-have-anything-that-matches everyday plates. The Cat can have somewhere to perch that isn’t a cardboard box. And I can’t wait to try to make something in the slow cooker.

I still got some free things from Shopmium.

Once I started feeling less ill, I managed to get to Foodprint, and also swung by M&S as they were closing for bargains. A friend suggested getting reduced milk and freezing it to save money. I’ve given this a go.

And I managed to attend Sharing Sherwood last Sunday. A lovely meal and lots of leftovers and food saved from the bin.


I don’t like being cooped up with nothing to do. So in a bid to be productive, I tackled the raging in-trays. I also found and listed more things on eBay from round the house.


I  saved us some money during this period, without even leaving the house.
Our buildings insurance was up for renewal. Rather than renewing automatically I shopped around. I got it for half the price of our renewal cost, and we will get £15 cashback as well.
Months ago I also applied for a reduction in my student loan, due to low income. I had a response to say that in 2017 our income was so low, I was eligible to have the interest on the loan for that year written off. So that’s almost £900 wiped from my student loan. Score!

I have gone back to work this week, still not feeling 100% but don’t want to take any more time off as I already need to attend an attendance review meeting due to being off ill.
I think this will be a week of taking it easy.

 

 

 

Christmas 2018.

Christmas has been and gone for the Silver household. Another year is over.
Christmas for us is a time for eating good food, and for spending time with family and friends.

24th of December.
At home in Norway, we celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December. So I endeavour to celebrate Christmas on the 24th.
Husband was at work from 6am to 2pm, and as it was Christmas Eve they had a fuddle at his workplace where everyone brought food. Husband brought some cheeses and biscuits.
He ended up sitting in the staff room by himself as he finds crowds and socialising, especially with a lot of people he doesn’t know that well, challenging. To their credit, several of his colleagues did come and check on him, including one who admitted she didn’t like socials anyway.
When Husband came home he stated that he just finds such occasions overwhelming. He explained that he has to not take too much food, make pleasant conversation, mind his body language – and ensure his eye contact is enough and not held for too long. Looking for someone a short time is avoidance behaviour, while looking for too long is staring and makes others uncomfortable. Having to think about all these things all the time is exhausting.
Husband and I had a lovely Christmas dinner together at home, just the two of us.

25th of December.
Christmas Day. Husband and I attended church with Husband’s family, then went home with Husband’s parents to have Christmas dinner. We went to Husband’s sister first to watch the children open their presents.
My mood was slightly subdued as Husband’s younger sister (has a learning disability and very little impulse control) asked me loudly what had happened to my face, in a room full of people.
For context: I have always had some bruising/damaged blood vessels on my chin from when I had an accident as a teenager, but have always been able to mask it with makeup. However, these last two months the area has suddenly grown in size and become quite swollen. I am going to see a doctor about it in January as I am becoming quite self-conscious about it.
In hindsight I realise that she was only saying what everyone else was thinking. ALL THE SAME. RRRRGH.
Husband stayed with his parents, while I took a taxi home. I needed to pack my suitcase and get the house ready for when I would be away, visiting my family.

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Some books I borrowed from work to take to read. Hip Roof Barn, you’d find Bomb Girls and When the Children Came Home interesting as they are both about social aspects of WWII.

26th of December.
I took the coach down to London and then the Tube out to Heathrow to catch my flight home. It was the first time I had tried the Sn-Ap coach service – it cost me £5 for a single ticket which was very reasonable.
The tube ticket to Heathrow was £6, so it cost me £11 to get there. Take that, £33 for-a-single-National Express and there’s-no-service-on-Boxing-Day-trains!

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Heathrow was still very festive.

Both my flights were very quiet and for both parts of the journey, I had the entire row for myself. Score!

27th of December.

Norway was cold and dark, but at least we had a nice roaring fire going.
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And I got to meet my sister’s new dog, Spot.

Husband was due to have some bloods taken again, this being the third attempt, to see what his ammonia levels were like. The technician managed to get the needle in but not draw any blood. Husband was too anxious by this point to have another attempt and so he went home.

28th of December.

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Big family meal today, so Nephew and I travelled to fetch my mother so she could take part. She would then stay until the day after and we would bring her home.

Mom was in a very poor way. She was very sunken in and quiet. Christmas Eve she was quite nauseus and unwell, and during dinner this time she did not eat anything at all.
Afterwards she went to bed at 8pm, which is not like her at all. She also complained of strong stomach pains and her stomach being upset.

29th of December.
When I came down in the morning, my sister was on the phone to the carers and the emergency department. She was quite concerned about Mom’s appearance and behaviour, especially given that it had been going on since Christmas Eve. The carers had taken Mom’s vitals which were all normal, so she was concerned that she was suffering from lithium poisoning. She has had this twice before, which was a very frightening experience.
As a nurse’s union rep, she knew the extension to the ICU and when she rang and introduced herself, a bright voice said ‘Oh, you are Older Brother’s sister, right?’ Turns out the responsible nurse on duty that day knows my brother and our family. She booked Mom to come straight to ICU, rather than having to go to the ED.
We drove to ICU in the next town over, where she was admitted to have a battery of blood tests. I had a surprise as well, as one of the doctors on the ward was a gent I went to school with.
The bloods all came normal as well, so the decision was, against Mom’s protests, to admit her until she was due to go to the nursing home for a week of respite.  We saw her onto the ward before heading home. Before we left, my sister reiterated to the nurses that Mom was to go to the nursing home on Monday, and that she would resist but that there was no choice.

Mom has been arguing with us and my sister in particular about going to the respite care now, every time she has had to go for the last six months. My sister has been on the receiving end of much of this, and she finds it hard.

Mom doesn’t see it as us being concerned for her welfare and safety. She sees it as us being abusive and forcing her to do stuff she doesn’t want.

30th of December.
Today was spent packing, weighting and repacking, and thinking strategically about getting as much with me as possible on my early flight back. My sister-inlaw gifted me some lovely clothes including a beautiful boar leather and rabbit coat, so I travelled to Norway without a coat with wearing that home on the flight in mind. I decided to travel wearing both the large coat and large jumper on, and then pack the jumper once in London.
My sister and her family gifted us some lovely meat, which I packed in my suitcase this time, in a thermal bag.
I travelled to visit Mom on the ward with some of my nephews and nieces, and Older Brother. She seemed a bit more chipper – but as we were leaving, one of the nurses came to us a bit distraught. She said she was sorry but that despite her best efforts she had not been able to persuade Mom to let her do her personal care for her.
We reassured her that Mom has Defcon levels of stubbornness and that they would look after her at the nursing home.

31st of December.
Urgh. 6.20am flight.
Kind nephew gave me a lift to the airport. I got there with plenty of time to spare and was asked to check my suitcase in at one of these booths. However when my tag was printed, the information on it was all wrong. So I had to queue to check in and drop my suitcase off manually, and only two of the desks were being staffed. I got myself checked in with minutes to spare and was the last person to drop my suitcase off.

Flight back was uneventful, and once back in London I tool the DLR to the city centre, changing there for the Tube to Victoria. Coach from London was on time, so I got back in the afternoon.
Not letting an opportunity go to waste, I checked if there were some bargains in the shop on my way to the bus stop.
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New Year’s Eve was spent enjoying Husband’s company, watching stuff and eating some party food I had bought and put in the freezer. We watched the London Fireworks live on YouTube and I then promptly went to bed as I was wiped out.

1st of January.
We met up with Husband’s family today to do Secret Santa and have dinner together. Due to no buses we took a taxi there and back, £50!!!!! Atleast we don’t have to do that very often!
Nobody commented on my face, which was a relief.
I had a nice day however Husband’s mood dived quite quickly as the day went by. He was in such a foul mood by the evening that we made the decision to come home.
He still misses the children he used to work with terribly and seeing his young niece and nephew that day reminded him of them.
I know that he doesn’t deal with change well and that we have to give it time. Plus that he looks at it with very rose tinted glasses.
I reminded him of how Shit Hit The Fan (I beg your pardon) in May and how distraught we both were when those boys made the allegations against him then, as he had forgotten about the whole thing.
Hopefully his longing will pass in time, and he will see that while the job did have its good qualities, it was not a staying place.

 

 

The first three weeks in December.

The first three weeks of December just flew by!

A lot of time was spent supporting Husband at home. He had his ingrown toenail out on the 3rd and had a week and three days off as a result.
Clever me ensured the house and laundry was done and food ordered and in the house before he went in for his operation.

The procedure went well and is healing nicely, bar 2 things:
1. So we were sat in the cubicle on the morning of the surgery after Husband had changed into his gown, when a lady (nurse? assistant? admin?magical fairy?) came into the cubicle. I said good morning to her, to which she didn’t respond. She did not look at either of us, but instead looked at Husband’s paperwork and scribbled something on it. And then left, leaving the curtain to the cubicle wide open. 😡 Listen lady, I know time is precious, but please have the courtesy to at least say hello, and your name, and say why you are coming in.
2. Husband asked to be put to sleep with the gas at his pre-operative assessment, due to this pathological fear of needles and injections, rather than using the cannula. When Husband was going to be put under however the anesthetist insisted on that he should have the cannula. Husband protested and said he had asked for the gas only to be told that this was not in the notes and that ‘Husband was making it difficult for everyone.’

I was very thankful that Husband’s parents could sit with him after his operation was done while I worked, as they want people who have had general anesthetic not to be left unattended the first 24 hours after the procedure.

Most of the first week in December was spent working and then returning home after work to check how Husband was.

I still managed to do some Christmas prep.

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I managed to prep some food the first week of December by making the red cabbage for Christmas Eve, and make rice porridge, both to eat and to make rice cream with. A very traditional Norwegian dessert consisting of cold rice porridge mixed with whipped cream and some vanilla sugar. Serve with strawberry jam or sauce.

The first two Wednesdays in December I decided to spend at home with Husband, so managed to decorate the tree as well.
IMG_20181212_144433Our lovely tree. I didn’t put any lights on this year as our lights didn’t work and I didn’t want to traverse a shop to buy some new ones. So I left them in their box out in the front room, while trying to work out where I could send them to be recycled.

The Cat gave me a dreadful fright. Husband was at home with a friend when they heard a crunching sound. They went to the front room and found that the Cat had gotten into the box and chewed two of the glass bulbs from the Christmas lights.
Husband managed to catch her and had a look in her mouth, but couldn’t see any damage or that she’d swallowed any of the glass. They picked up the rest of the pieces, but I kept waking up the following two nights, wondering where she was. The Cat has never been interested in the tree or the lights, so it didn’t even occur to me that she would chew the lights. I could never have forgiven myself if me being careless had caused her to suffer.
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Work also put their Christmas tree up, I especially like these baubles as they remind me of a peacock’s feather.
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I had the most wonderful Christmas present at the beginning of the second week. One of the panels I am a part of doing surveys for drew my number in their monthly draw. I won a £100 PayPal gift card! This was promptly added to our rainy day/Travel somewhere fund.

In-between working I managed to write and send our Christmas cards out.

One afternoon Husband had the dreaded brown envelope through from the DWP through in the post. Feeling my heart beat a bit faster (I swear brown envelope phobia is a thing) I opened it…to find that Husband has been given a £10 Christmas bonus from them. Joy.

I managed to get some freebies on Shopmium.

And some bargains. Of course.

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Saturday the 15th of December I woke up feeling very rubbish.

Oh not again, I thought. I had to fight myself to go to work as I felt so ill, and spent most of the weekend feeling very tired and flat.

I was shelving a book and found this inside one of them:

The last week before Christmas I felt progressively more ill. Finally on the Thursday I caved after much nagging from Husband and called in sick, spending Thursday and Friday in bed. I felt that if I was to have a chance to recover I needed to just rest for a day or two, rather than fighting with myself to go to work.

Saturday the 22nd I felt much better after two days at home. It was the last day of work before Christmas. The university campus was very quiet all day that day.
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All the staff brought some food to share, and there was lots left over from the weekday staff. In addition I also volunteered to clean and sort the work fridge out, to leave it nice and clean in the New Year (and to stop work colleagues throwing the food away). So I came home from work with this:

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All perfectly good food, saved from being thrown away.

Sunday the 23rd was spent with Husband and family, as it was our nephew’s 14th birthday. It’s not the poor soul’s fault he’s born just two days off Christmas Day, so we try hard to make his birthday stand out.

Husband’s SAD light arrived the day before, so he started using it that Sunday. We will have to see how it works out. The manual says he should feel better with 3 to 4 days of use.

All in all it was a good pre-Christmas time. Apart from feeling ill one week, it was quite relaxed. Presents had already been bought or were being bought early, saving me the stress of traversing the heaving town centre. I also had a chance to meet up with my former line manager and head of department, and it was lovely catching up with them both.