Sunday, February 7, 2016

Day 1 - prepping for the week :O

I guess that's the seasonal baby I bought yesterday. ;)

I'm already feeling a bit overwhelmed as I'm not drawn to cooking (although I sure can EAT - just ask Jane). But the recipes for this programme are straightforward and simple, which is great and I suppose the prepping and organisation is 50% of it. That way 30-minute meals actually do take 30 mins instead of the (seemingly) hours-long process they can turn into. 

I'm counting today as the official Day One. We got our week's info and details on Thursday, but really the only thing we had to do prior to today was shop, so I haven't done anything differently.

Today we're doing a little prep work for the week: quinoa, a mince and a squash & sweet potato puree. I've done the quinoa and am just trying to motivate myself to move onto the next ones - the mince and baking (before pureeing) the veggies.

One of the ladies in the UK Crew has set up an FB group for us and it's neat to see so many people (I think there are two men) from all over the world joining the main forums: Canada, USA, UK, Australia & New Zealand, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland and Austria are represented, among others. Everyone seems excited, trepedatious and motivated for their own reasons (most of them health-related) to do this. There are also nutritionists, personal trainers and yoga instructors, doctors, naturopaths, dietiticians, etc. on board to help us, as well as the experienced IQS-ers and the Ambassadors, who are there to advise, guide and support.

I'm not really sure how I'm feeling (apart from a little overwhelmed by all things kitchen, as I said above). I suppose a bit uncertain what to expect with regard to withdrawal symptoms (headaches, irritability, fatigue...) and how bad they can be. It depends on your addiction, so I'm anticipating I'm going to be a "bit" wretched to live with over the next coulple of weeks.

I'm also unsure what to do about tea. I can still have it, just not with sugar. If there's anything I'm addicted to more than sugar, it's tea. It's my Everything. We are still allowed to have it, just not with sugar obviously, which is the problem. I do, however, have a delicious herbal tea that will probably work as a replacement because, quite frankly, if I can't have sugar in my tea, I might as well give it up because I can't drink it without (right now, at least). So. Now I'm adding caffeine withdrawal to the programme.

Might as well kick it all at once, right?

I'm getting another parcel today (got two books yesterday). I am on target with my 'monthly treat' budgeted amount, so this particular purchase came out of my 'misc' budget - which was exceptionally high this month, as I put half the deposit on the holiday bungalow for my mum. Regardless, I have £17.07 left in this amount and that's it for me this month. So what did I buy?

A spiralizer!

I know. I'm weak. But look! "Courgetti"!! So weak...

It arrives today!! :)

I'd best get prepping or I'm going to regret it for the rest of the week!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

It's here! 'Bye sugar! :(

photo cred:

Our first email arrived on Thursday. It includes a comprehensive (and very specific) shopping list, a fabulous looking meal plan, exercise tips, and a long list of snacks that can be eaten between meals if you're feeling really hungy. The cook-up and portioning happens on Sunday and there are notes to help you work out how your daily meals are organised and set up.

During the first week we're still allowed a little sweetness, which is why fruit is on the list.

I was really thrilled to realise that I had a large number of items already in the cupboards and pantry, so I had only fresh things to buy - veggies, meat, dairy, etc.

I wandered around the (relatively empty) grocery store and was very pleased to note that the prices were lower than usual on a lot of things and that the produce department in particular had been re-organized. It looked great, although it still frustrates me beyond reason that SO much stuff is packaged in plastic containers and it's hard to root through things for single items. Depending on what you want, you either end up with a huge amount for relative pennies or, like strawberries for example, you get about 8 for a stupid price.

Anyhoo, I (mostly) stuck to the list and wound up spending £60.58, which was still more than I was anticipating, but I think that comes down to the meat, really, although I feel I got a pretty good price on what I bought. As well, pantry items won't be bought every time: containers of spices and mustard, for example.

Meat: £17.27
364g beef mince £2.91
370g pork loin £2.45
128g bacon £1.15 (2 pieces)
322g haddock £3.85
.985kg pork loin joint £3.94
6 Sausages (pkg) £2.97

Produce: £19.79
1/2 white cabbage £.47
3 x sweet potatoes (1.265kg @ £1.25/kg) £1.58
pkg wild rocket £.82
3 x white onions (0.350kg @ £0.75/kg) £0.26
2 x broccoli £0.76 (£0.38p each)
large avocado £1.35
2 x butternut squash (medium?) £1.30 (£0.65p each)
Lg pkg kale, shredded (coudn't find regular stuff) £0.86
2 x carrots (0.210kg @ £0.75/kg) £0.17
1 100g pkg green beans £1.00
Fresh coriander (cilantro) £0.72
1 seasonal baby .... £1.27 (unclear where I picked this up - ha ha!)
1 pkg baby spinach £1.00
1 med red pepper £0.60
1 mangetout (snow peas) £1.50
1 lg courgette (zucchini) (0.375kg @ £2.00/kg) £0.75
2 pkgs x small organic courgettes (@ £1.12 ea) £2.24 (4 courgettes in total)
5 loose garlic bulbs @ £0.11 each £0.55
1 loose ginger (0.010kg @ £1.00/kg) £0.01 (about the size of the top of my thumb)
1 lime £0.26
1 organic cucumber £0.26
5 loose lemons (@£0.21p each) £1.05
1 pkg trimmed leeks (only come in pkgs of 2) £0.57
1 med iceberg lettuce £0.44

Dairy: £7.43
1.126L whole milk £0.75
400g Italian Mozzarella (buffalo mozza) £1.96
250g cheddar £1.64
1 doz free-range eggs £2.27
500g plain Greek yogurt £0.81

Other: £13.56
Pasta (2 x 500g): £1.00 (or 0.61p each)
Dijon mustard £0.62
Wholegrain mustard £1.00
2 x Red curry paste (50g ea) £1.00
Mild curry powder £1.13
Whole cardamom (sm. jar) £0.67
Sage (sm. jar) £0.67
Small loaf artisan bread £1.47
500g frozen mixed fruit £2.00
Korma curry paste £2.00
2 x kitchen rolls £2.00 (or £1.24 ea)

Off-list: £6.71
600g Strawberries £2.53 (superb price; this is usually the price of the above-mentioned 8)
1 package of pasta: 0.61p
Cardamom £0.67
12 eggs @ £2.27 - probably should have only got 6, but there we are. I have some for next week now, as apparently I only need one this week!
3 lemons £0.63 - need only 2 for recipes, but also need some for my water during the day so bought extra.

Items with sugar (or fructose): korma paste, strawberries & curry paste. But as this is week one, we're allowed a little sweetness. It's NEXT week that we cut it out for four solid weeks. Tricky stuff that sugar.

I hope I don't end up like this (at least, not for too long):

The 'Sugar Free Farm' celebs (week 2 of 3) seem to be doing a bit better, although one fellow threw a tantrum because he "didn't sign up just to eat vegetables." WHERE'S THE MEAT!? He denied it was a withdrawal symptom, but his kitchen co-celeb realised that it was. She forgave him his outburst, but was ready to throat punch him the next day after he and another fellow ate half a loaf of sugar-free bread she'd bought for everyone. She was really angry and he was barely apologetic.

I'm confident I'll spend less next week (part of next week's shop was bought today - the pork joint), as a good portion of 'other' is stuff that will carry over. Overall, very pleased with what I got. The grocery store had lowered prices on loads of things - plenty in the produce section, fortunately - which was great to see.

I adjusted my grocery budget UP £60 a month to accommodate this programme, so I hope it'll be enough. I won't be buying tea this month, so that'll save me £40, which I can either roll over into groceries or savings. Not buying things at the shop on the way to work (for lunches or whatever) will also help. I've spent my food budget for this week.

I then bought gas (sorry, petrol). It's £0.999 per litre at the grocery store, which is the lowest in the area. I imagine it'll go back up as we creep towards summer, but hopefully not too much. So a full tank of petrol (35.94L) cost me £35.90 today, saving me £4.10 on my petrol budget! Fab! That should last me just over 2 months, assuming I'm just driving back and forth to the station and don't decide to take a trip to Scotland somewhere in there (unlikely).

The change went directly into my coin bank. My snowflake jar sits at at nice £63.85 and I have over £140 in my bank account. That might not seem like much, but I'm usually down atthe very bottom, so I'm actually really pleased and hope I can continue. Plus, keeping a reasonable amount in the account should also help with my credit building. The bank doesn't like to see you at your limit every single month.

Otherwise, the Irish trip continues to bloom. Jane and I have booked our accommodation in Galway and Cork and are working out transportation and food budgets. She has also booked her flight, but I'm still searching for mine. The hike itself (plus 2-3 nights in Dublin before hand) I will look into at the end of February. All costs in the Republic are in Euros, which makes it a bit cheaper for both of us. I can't believe I'm FINALLY going to Ireland!!!! Beyond excited!!

I've been taking my iron supplements as directed for a week now and I am feeling better. I'm sleeping extremely well (!) and feel a bit more switched on this week, which is great. I know I have a ways to go yet, but I can notice a difference, so it is working, and I'm pleased.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Roll on, February!

Is it just me or do we seem to have lost a ridiculous number of People this month: Lemmy, David Bowie, Joe Cocker, Alan Rickman, Glen Frey, Dan Haggerty, Abe Vigoda, and Rene Angelil amongst them. Many, many others - a quick search showed me almost 150 since the end of December 2015! Not to mention so many others that don't make these sorts of lists, the average, the ordinary, the everyday.

January has been that kind of month, apparently.

This week I was feeling more 'off' than usual, making some silly mistakes at work, and feeling utterly exhausted even after nights of solid sleep. I'm glad my iron tablets arrived yesterday! I hope they do the trick and I'll be feeling better in a few days. It's not that I feel horrendous (I wouldn't have gone to the doctor if I hadn't wanted to do an exercise programme), but I know that once my iron levels are back to where they should be, I will feel fantastic compared to how I feel right now. I mostly just feel drained and very fatigued.

However, my period seems to have FINALLY stopped - pretty much 4 months to the day it started - so that will help immensely. I start my no sugar programme on Thursday, and that will help even more. I'd like to say I'm going to start the exercise programme in February, but I'm not sure that's wise until my breathing regulates - right now, walking up small hills and into a strong wind leaves me gasping, so extended, vigourous exercise seems foolish.

My work colleague is doing VERY well with the diet progamme she started at the beginning of the month and is down 4lbs since the beginning of the month! She's pleased, but is a bit frustrated that it's not more and that she was up 1/2lb two weeks ago. I told her to just keep this in mind:

My new programme starts on Thursday and I'm really looking forward to it! There's a programme on TV at the moment called "Sugar Free Farm" which takes 6 celebrities (British ones, and I'm only vaguely familiar with one of them) and puts them on a farm in Hampshire for two weeks with NO SUGAR: no fruit, no alcohol, no honey, no sweeteners, no sugar, etc. - nothing that sweetens food in any way.

It could be argued that putting them into a situation like this where they have everything at their fingertips should make it a doddle (hee hee - I love that word = easy), but on Day 3, one of the girls needed medical attention (!!). The withdrawal symptoms vary in degree, but seem to consist of headaches, irritability, and exhaustion among others. I think the severity and duration of the symptons depends on the amount of sugar you usually ingest. I'd consider myself pretty hard core.

The expert walking them through this is actually one of the experts on the panel for my no sugar programme, and is what prompted my interest in the show. I also have access to a forum to talk about things during the process - there are about half a dozen ladies or so who have done this once or even twice before, so it'll be interesting to pick their brains as we go along.

I'm planning to diarise my journey from Day 1 to Day 56 to keep track of how I'm feeling before, during and after the initial 8-weeks. I want to capture the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of this. The programme really focuses on fructose, so the first 4-week block eliminates even fruit! The second month re-introduces it slowly with items like berries, which are very low-sugar, but high in antioxidants.

I can't say I'm not nervous, especially after watching the show!

It was a mixed bag, money-wise.

Rent         £450.00 30.9% £450.00 £-  
Food       £250.00 17.2% £226.28 £23.72

Mobile       £18.00 1.2% £27.00 -£9.00 
Petrol       £40.00 2.7% £-            £40.00
Toiletries      £10.00 0.7% £3.71 £6.29
Medical       £-           0.0% £8.44 -£8.44 

Eating Out   £25.00 1.7% £14.90 £10.10
Car repairs  £20.00 1.4% £60.60 -£40.60 
Car Ins.       £27.43 1.9% £27.43 £-  
Donation       £10.00 0.7% £10.00 £-  
Car Tax       £12.68 0.9% £12.68 £-  
Train Pass   £72.20 5.0% £72.20 £-  
Treat      £20.00 1.4% £24.96 -£4.96

Misc.      £40.00 2.7% £285.00 -£245.00

CC Debt      £100.00 6.9% £100.00 £100.00

Savings       £55.00 3.8% £66.90 -£11.90
Retirement   £55.00 3.8% £55.00 £-  

I'm proud to say I tracked my spending every single day in January, although not proud of the fact that I think there were maybe two days where I didn't spend anything. Still, that's what tracking is for, n'est ce pas?

The mobile phone bill was a bit of a shock and I still can't quite figure out what I did that garnered me the extra cost, but I've just received my new bill and it's back down to just under £18, so it's all good.

Medical was unexpected, but necessary and it could have been much worse. This was the cost for 200 tablets, which should last me about 6-8 weeks. I'll likely be ordering from the same place when I need more because if I order direct from the business I can save 7.5%. Not much on such a small amount, but every little bit helps. I've added £10 to my budget from February for that.

Car repairs - I've increased this amount to £30 as she's an older car and the driver's side door lock has already gone again, so will need repair sooner rather than later. Again.

My treat - not awful, but again, I've increased it to £25 a month which is a bit more comfortable.

But look at that Miscellaneous line! £80 of that is for my no sugar programme, but that's still a ridiculous amount. I've increased the amount there to £100, to cover myself.

But despite all that, I HAD MONEY LEFT OVER in my envelopes and from a little bit of snowflaking and deposited £190 back into my account today!! I did a little bit of envelope tweaking and am beyond thrilled. I split it evenly between my savings accounts.

Oh, and Jane and I are going hiking in Ireland this year!

And that's about that. 


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Can you believe it's almost the end of January already?!

Here we are, heading into the last week of January. Already! Where does the time go?

So what are my finances doing this week? I'm officially marking January down as a 'What NOT To Do' month (ahem) as far as spending goes. I did not do at all well. 

My 'misc' column is ridiculous - well over £200 MORE than I'd budgeted. This will be adjusted UP in the coming months, so that I have wiggle room - FAIL

I've had to add an amount for medical - £8.44, which in the grand scheme of things is not much. I'll have to budget this amount for perhaps another 3 months - NEUTRAL

I'm within my budgeted amount for groceries. Not by a lot, but it's definitely a positive  - GOOD

The month has gone by really quickly! I get paid on Friday and can start my budget fresh. My no sugar programme starts on Feb 4 and I'm really looking forward to it. I've been making a few of the recipes over the past week or so and my cousin enjoys them too, so I'm hoping it's sustainable and that I can encourage her by not beating her over the head with anything, but with visible results instead. She's not at all a fussy eater, so it's easy enough in that respect, particularly if the meals are quick & easy to make. I'm planning on keeping track of the changes I see & feel on a weekly basis. I'll be making notes on everything: physical, mental and emotional. 

The programme has an online forum with people from all over: the majority are from Australia/New Zealand - the programme originates in Australia - but there are a few of us in the UK and the US, too. A few have done the programme before, so will be able to talk us newbies through the withdrawal symptoms (of which there seem to be several and which come on in varying degrees).

I had a doctor's appointment two weeks ago and got a bloodwork and chest x-ray referral, so those have been done. I am probably one of the laziest people around, but the past year or so has really seen me gasping for breath at even the lightest sustained activity, so I went to get checked out (ostensibly for this exercise class I want to start next month). I went for a chest x-ray last Tuesday. No word on the results there just yet, but if anything unusual shows up I'm sure I'll get a phone call.

The blood panel, however, showed that I'm anaemic. Just how anaemic, I'm not sure as I didn't get numbers, but the doctor said I needed to start taking Ferrous Sulphate 200mg tablets twice a day for three weeks, then once per day for 4 months and that should bring me back to normal. That's a LOT of iron! I don't feel awful (not as awful as I was feeling in London, at least), but I imagine I'll feel better once I start taking it. As this is, in all likelihood, stemming from the onset of pre-menopause (and my months-long periods), the next step is to work on that. I hope that isn't code for HRT, because I'm unlikely to agree to that although I will take advice.

Firstly, though, I'd like to get my breath and energy back so that I can do walks and exercise without feeling like I'm going to keel over. There's a 'hill' I walk up every morning on my way to work and by the time I reach the top, it takes me two blocks to recover from the climb.

So one thing at a time.

My sister and I are currently looking for a holiday let around the New Forest. My mother has decided to visit during the two most expensive holiday weeks of the year (Easter break), yet wants a 'cheap' place to stay with room enough for about 6 people so visitors can come to her, rather than her going to them. A good idea as it means the cousins and their kids can come for a visit, but it's definitely not cheap. My sister did at least manage to dissuade her from making it a surprise for me, as she'll be here over my birthday. Am I looking forward to it? Not particularly. And I'll just leave that there.

I'm looking forward to February - a new budget, a new eating plan, perhaps a bit more focus, clarity and energy. And an extra day! :)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Week in review - how am I doing?

Another week gone already - and we arrive in mid-January. The weather has been cold and wet all week, so people have been miserable (that'd be the rain). Woke up to heavy frost yesterday - that I know what to do with: woolies!! It sounds ridiculous, as a Canadian, to constantly whine about how freaking COLD it is here, but it's true. A +2C day, if it's raining, can feel much, much colder - it's that damp. It goes right through you. I've spent several days at work this week just unable to get warm, huddling in front of my oil heater.

I can deal with frost and ice - I'm welcoming it actually, even if the cold - again - goes right through me. The Yukon was so dry that several layers ensured that as long as you kept moving, you'd be sweating in no time. It's a tricky thing dressing for cold, wet weather, never mind the fact that it's hardly motivating to get out into.


But there's rumours of S-N-O-W in Hampshire and Dorset overnight, so fingers crossed. I'm probably the only person in the entire country to be happy about that, but so be it. I can get bundled up and go for a walk. I hope to see the New Forest under snow, but it is unlikely.

Anyway, what are my finances looking like?

I did a grocery shop today which cost me £73.46. 90% was veggies. 

Meat: roast chicken, 2 x salmon, pork chops: £11.02

Non-essentials (cider x 1): £1.65

Veggies: a bazillion greens, cauliflower, lettuce, cucumbers (x 2), avocadoes (x 4) and various other bits: £30.34

Fruit: lemons, limes, berries (various), 1 x grapefruit, 1 x granny smith apple: £13.87

Dairy: 4 x greek yogurt, 3.23L milk: £5.30

Other: rice, coconut milk, cat food: £11.28

Very pleased with the result as I'm hoping that will take me over more than a week's worth of meals. Some of the cost in the 'veggies' section is actually herbs & spices (bottled). Like the rice, they're items that will stick around for quite a while.

I printed off a bunch of recipes from my no sugar programme and thought I could get started a bit early. Sure can't hurt! The recipes are truly delicious, too, and quite simple and straightforward, which is even better. I've decided that I'm not going to stress out about finding the exact ingredients for these no sugar recipes - it can be time consuming and a pain (never mind expensive) and will substitute as and when needed. I wouldn't buy items I don't like simply because a recipe calls for them, so why spend more than I need to on anything else? It's not the letter of the programme, but I think 98% is better than stressing out about an elusive ingredient or two.

I confess I bought my Feb treat(s) early! I got my little food warmer yesterday, along with some cocoa powder and arrowroot powder. I also have another book coming. As I'm not intending to go to the coffee shop while I'm on my no sugar programme, I'm hoping I can stay well within my £40 monthly 'misc' budget, possibly rolling some of it over towards debt payments instead. I think that would be wisest thing to do, particularly as the Canadian dollar is so low at the moment. It makes sense to take advantage of it while I can.

I had car repairs today: £57.20, so not as bad as I was expecting, but still a pain. The auto locks on the driver's side (both doors) weren't opening all the way, so I had to clamber across the passenger seat to open the door. Not a big deal, just annoying. The lock mechanism is old so will, eventually, need full replacement. Those will be £70 (incl VAT) each. At least I only need two - so far - and can do them independently of each other if I need to. But fingers crossed I'm good for a while yet.

I returned one of the shirts I bought last week, too: +£10 and deposited £10 in coin, too.

While I was in town returning my shirt, I stopped at the library for my book that arrived (The Pale Horseman, No. 2 in the Last Kingdom series). Apparenty it costs .50p to bring in a book from another library branch. This is good to know for future reference. On top of DVD/CD rental costs (£2), this is another one I'd like to avoid, as it's possible it could add up. I certainly don't begrudge the library some small charges - god knows they're fighting for every penny they can here, sadly - and in the grand scheme of things, I am happy to pay for a service like that. I'll stick to what I can find at the smaller local branches and in Southampton at the central library.

So the weekly spend looks like this:

11-Jan  £      10.00 misc cash PAID Costa weekly draw for tea
11-Jan  £        5.55 savings cash TRNSF savings tea/muffin NOT bought wk of Jan 3 + Jan 7
11-Jan  £        4.75 groceries cash PAID Co-op soup, 2 x buns, ibuprofen, pain au chocolate
12-Jan  £        1.95 misc cash PAID Costa tea
12-Jan  £        1.00 misc cash PAID Co-op 2 x chocolate bar
12-Jan  £      31.24 misc CC PAID Amazon crockpot, arrowroot, cocoa powder, book
12-Jan  £        0.60 misc debit PAID FB game tokens
13-Jan  £        1.95 misc cash PAID Costa tea
13-Jan  £        8.85 groceries debit PAID Sainsbury's buns x 2, soup, blackberries, bag of cookies, carrots, Kleenex
14-Jan  £        1.95 misc debit PAID Costa tea
14-Jan  £        3.29 misc debit PAID FB game tokens
15-Jan  £        1.70 groceries cash PAID Sainsbury's 1 x bun, 2 x pain au chocolat
15-Jan  £        1.95 misc cash PAID Costa tea
15-Jan  £        1.50 savings tnsf PAID Barclay's covering cost of muffin
15-Jan  £        5.32 groceries debit PAID Ethical groceries truvia (for Jan, got cash)
16-Jan  £      73.46 groceries cash PAID Morrisons veggies for week's detox
16-Jan  £      57.20 car repairs debit PAID Cadnam garage auto locks

And the totals look like this:

Rent/Mortgage  £ 450.00 30.9%  £  450.00  £                -  
Utilities  £   -   0.0%  £          -    £                -    
Groceries  £  250.00 17.2%  £  188.13  £          61.87
Internet  £   -   0.0%  £          -    £                -    
Mobile  £    18.00 1.2%  £   27.00 -£           9.00
Petrol  £    40.00 2.7%  £          -    £          40.00
Toiletries  £    10.00 0.7%  £     3.71  £            6.29
Medical  £           -   0.0%  £          -    £                -    
Home Maint./Stuff  £           -   0.0%  £          -    £                -    
Laundry  £           -   0.0%  £          -    £                -    
Eating Out  £    25.00 1.7%  £   14.90  £           10.10
Car repairs  £    20.00 1.4%  £          -    £           20.00
Car Insurance  £    27.43 1.9%  £   27.43  £                 -  
Cat Protection  £    10.00 0.7%  £   10.00  £                 -  
Car Tax  £    12.68 0.9%  £   12.68  £                 -  
Train Pass  £    72.20 5.0%  £   72.20  £                 -    
Chinese doctor  £          -   0.0%  £          -    £                 -    
Naturopath  £          -   0.0%  £          -    £                 -    
Monthly Treat  £    20.00 1.4%  £   24.96 -£4.96
[Insert Name]  £           -   0.0%  £          -    £                -    
Miscellaneous  £    40.00 2.7%  £  196.41 -£156.41
LLP  £           -   0.0%  £          -    £                -    
Credit Card Debt  £  411.26 28.2%  £  100.00  £          311.26
LOC Debt  £           -   0.0%  £          -    £                -    
Enter "X" Fund Name  £           -   0.0%  £          -    £                -    
Savings  £    55.00 3.8%  £   65.35 -£          10.35
Retirement  £    55.00 3.8%  £   55.00  £                -  
Emergency Fund  £           -   0.0%  £          -    £                -