Saturday, 25 January 2014

Use It Up Month

January in our house always seems to be a use-it-up month. After all the food buying around Thanksgiving and Christmas we usually still have a couple of very full freezers. I'm in extra frugal mode this month for several reasons:  just got an enormous repair bill (over a year of rent) on my rental house in Salt Lake City; we got planning permission to build a downstairs loo; we're in the process of purchasing another motor home, having sold our first one last summer.  This sort of out-go is well beyond anything I've ever experienced. We're probably OK, but I find that I'm feeling a bit of practically beside myself with stress at the moment.

Whilst some frugal habits are still ingrained - most clothes from thrift stores, eat at home, my house robe is 36 years old, I have drifted from tightwad thinking a bit.  So I'm stepping back into old ways:

Use it Up
If I go to the store hungry I risk coming back with unusual things like instant puddings or nuts we don't normally eat. These get pushed to the back of the cupboard, forgotten until the next frugal initiative. Actually, pudding and nuts are the happy surprises.  Others include pickled beetroot, some sort of white pepper gravy mix from Oklahoma (a gift when we visited, not hoarded for 23 years) and three kinds of flour I'm not sure how to use without some research.  

List vs Bulk
Instead of buying in bulk I've been shopping with a list. Only when we get low on a critical item like milk or toilet paper do I go shopping.  I buy singles of things like condiments but two or three of basic items to save a trip or two.  I still stock up on UHT milk and get the largest package of TP.  This lets me shop only once or twice a month. I'd like to get back to buying in bulk: a full pantry is my definition of personal food security. To do that I am working on updating my price book.

Price Book
I've listed all the supermarkets in our area and calculated the distance to each.  Our closest market, Morrisons, is less than a mile away, but their labels are misleading; no matter how careful I still get caught out with the wrong item now and then.  As much as is practical, I try to take my business elsewhere.  There is a cluster of bargain shops a mile away, but as always, not everything there is a bargain.  Therein lies the value of a price book.  I know the best fresh fruit and veg prices are 8 miles away in Seaton Delaval and the fish quay is less than half a mile from home.  By shopping at a different store each time I can learn again what constitutes a bargain or even just a reasonable price.  I don't go to every place each time I shop, unless they are directly en route. I wouldn't wish to waste the fuel or my time like that.  

Though I bought what was on the list the other day, I started thinking I could make different choices.  Instead of buying more yeast and strong white flour to make bread, we've been meaning for ages to try making soda bread. Since we have plenty of oatmeal on hand, we could have porridge (oatmeal) for breakfast.  That would also save buying more margarine and low-sugar marmalade.  I would try making marmalade, but I've never seen Seville oranges and doubt it would be economical anyhow.

Instead of buying more milk, we could break into those two containers of powdered milk.  No idea if they are still any good, but if they aren't we could trash them.  Makes no sense to keep them if they aren't still good and the longer we keep them more more likely this is.  Both really obvious ideas but because I readily dismiss use by dates on certain foods (OK, on most foods, but with more caution in some cases) they catch me up now and then.  I can handle using powdered milk as I did in Utah, but sadly here in the UK it is no cheaper.  

When tablet sweeteners were on sale for £1 a dispenser, I bought 5 or 6.  All but the one in my purse is not empty, but there is still a jar of loose Canderel that isn't as easy to use, just waiting to be consumed.  After that there is a container of odd packets of condiments collected from here and there, with at least a few servings of sweetener.  I would substitute sugar for sweetener except that my stomach doesn't tolerate more than a couple of teaspoons a day.  The consequences are sufficiently severe that I'd rather go without than eat sugar.  Fortunately, I have no strong preferences about my tea.

We have a lot of tea around, but we both prefer coffee.  We're down to two cups of instant coffee before switching to decaf; Bill loves strong coffee but his heart does not.  Tea is much cheaper and has less caffeine, but too much upsets my stomach (I must have a very tender tummy), even with milk added.  I have some herbal stuff and when that's gone I could experiment with other 'tisanes', starting with the rosemary and lavender I have in my garden. Becoming au fait with the difference between an infusion and a decoction sounds quite witchy, mysterious and altogether fun, even though I tend to joke that a lot of this stuff is just dirty water.  I have, when really cold and thirsty, appreciated just a cup of hot water. In fact I find that I prefer whatever it is I'm most familiar with drinking.  

The price of tinned salmon has doubled in the last few years. I don't think even tuna is cheap any more.  A Girl Called Jack has inspired me to see that it's like to cook with fish paste.  I also have a tin of pilchards waiting for me to work up the nerve to 'pattify' them, as suggested by The Tightwad Gazette.  Tinned mackerel and sardines are other options.

Jack also opened my eyes to tinned potatoes.  We can get four servings from a 14 pence tin from Sainburys.  We make our own soups and prefer fresh fruit and veg, so there are whole areas of supermarkets I've not explored for a while.  I plan to make a list of the generic items for the main supermarkets near us and reconsider some choices.  For example, a tin of tomato soup is 24p compared to a tin of tomatoes at 34p. Passatta brands come and go, but it might be worth comparing the three tomato products. Good fresh tomatoes are never cheap here; bad ones are worthless to me. I'd rather eat tinned tomatoes than tasteless ones.

Free Foods
I finished off the blackberries in the freezer, but still have a lot of sloes and elderberries.  The latter are poisonous uncooked and so I'll need to be careful.  I can buy jam I'm happy with for far less than the sugar to make preserves, so it looks like these free foods will be for recreational beverages, currently a low priority.  On the other hand, I still have a bag or two of the apples Vivien gave me this summer (Thanks again, Vivien!).  Apple pie and spice cake come to mind.  Also fruit smoothies for breakfast and possibly dessert, but I'll have to experiment with that.

Not Just Food
I have two packages of hair colour I'm not that thrilled about. One is a darker ash blonde than my current colour, the other a strawberry blonde my hairdresser recommended (She comes to my house and only charges me £15 for a cut; she understands my tightwaddery well).  I've used the darker ash blonde and put in the usual streaks.  I now have 'frosted' hair, if any one remembers back to when that was popular.  I can live with it.  I may save the strawberry for when we go away next, in case I don't want to be seen!

Is your January a use-it-up month?  Or does the first month of the year have other significance for you?


Sandra said... was a lazy Saturday morning, a good time to "read up on Shelley's House" a bit. First article of "use it up month"...oh my goodness we ARE related. Loved your analysis. I am sure we could live for 6 months on stuff in the cabinet and I am always challenged in January to try doing so. My plan DO NOT buy anything without cleaning out a cabinet, closet, drawer, shelf to see if I really NEED it and purge that old stuff that is questionable from the pantry! You must write that book someday or shall we collaborate? Hugs to you and Bill (good luck on the coffee reduction...we are trying the same plan...a gazillion herbal tea packets in the pantry). I could go on and on...we could use an in person visit again. Sandra

Thrifty Mom In Boise said...

Stopped by to check out your blog because I noticed we share the same name, are close in age and I've longed to visit England. Happy I found you. I'll be checking back often. Cheerio!

sanda said...

Hi Shelley
You present great ideas for using up items in the pantry. I have a weakness for buying food, more than needed, but my excuse is that I want everything on hand in case I decide to make something. I do go thrunphases when I use up before buying more. January for me means getting everything in the house organized and rearranging my thinking to be more productive and positive minded.

Shelley said...

Sandra - Yes, we are related, definitely! I've promised my Uncle Pat a visit this year, will have to see where that takes us other than Oklahoma.

Thrifty Mom - we do have several things in common, I see. Hope you'll come back some time.

Sanda - January does seem to inspire organising and thinking positive, doesn't it? Sadly, we've been ill around here and I'm just now getting back to all those grandiose ideas I had earlier...