Lee Rotbart

Posts Tagged ‘budgeting’

De-briefing breakfast

In Preparations in London on December 6, 2010 at 1:51 pm

After seemingly endless discussions about how to do the best full English breakfast ever, Danny and I finally put our theories to the test and did brekkie for 4 unsuspecting guinea-pigs on Sunday.

Preparation involved an in-depth discussion, and internet search, on how to grill tomatoes and mushrooms (yes, I too was surprised to learn that there are actually recipes for grilling tomatoes); and a midnight shop at Tescos, where late-night shelf stackers must have been surprised to see a highly animated couple debate the merits of different types of tomatoes and mushrooms well into Saturday morning.

I might take this opportunity to add that never was there a better time to do this shop. Free of screaming kids and harassed parents, rushed singletons in the 5-a-day fruit and veg section, snogging couples hovering around the ice cream area, and trolleys piled high with the weekly shop, Tescos is a different place. Staff are friendly, or just pleased to have someone to talk to, queues are non-existent, no one tuts behind me as I slow down to check out the reduced items shelf, and Danny and I can pick up a million packets of bacon without getting shoved out the way by other shoppers. It was a joy and one of the best ideas we’ve had in a long time.

Sunday morning dawned and I was awake with the birds (birds sleep in on a Sunday) in anticipation of what was going to be the best breakfast ever made. I was basing this rather grand statement on the fact that the night before, during our dress rehearsal, I’d managed to poach an egg (a special thanks must go to Mr Hugo Woolley). Fresh from this monumental achievement I figured that everything else was just timing.

Hustling my parents out the door to walk the dog, ignoring beautifully sarcastic comments from my father about everything from food poisoning to his thoughts on the uselessness of a tomato at breakfast, Danny and I set to work. 4 slices of slightly burnt toast, a messy grill, 5 over-poached eggs, and some very crispy bacon later, breakfast was served.

On the plus side Danny and I were still talking to each other and, to date, no one has had food poisoning; the baked beans were a resounding success, as were the sausages, and it was unanimously agreed that the quantity of food and lack of grease was right on the money. On the downside we’re a bit concerned that the breakfast looks too healthy to appeal to punters looking for a ‘good ol’ fry up’ and we definitely need more practice at doing poached eggs ‘en masse’, while half were done beautifully the other half had most definitely seen better days.

It wasn’t this:

Nor was it this:

Overall however, it was not bad for our first attempt. We have 7 more trial runs to go, with increasingly larger numbers each time and while space might be more of an issue than we first imagined, all is bang on track.

As a post script I feel duty bound to add (for all interested parties) that my father, despite all the fuss, did actually eat his tomato. I consider this a small, but significant, victory.

Catching the bus

In The beginning on July 15, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Tomorrow I am going to Bristol. This, in itself is not unusual, my other half is from Bristol so we’re down there quite a lot. What is unusual is that I am travelling down there by coach.

I don’t travel by chauffeur driven cars or catch black taxis all around London, I have neither a private jet nor a helicopter, all that aside I have to admit that I’ve never really considered National Express a viable travel option. ‘Cheap travel’ for me is a super saver return on Great Western and, even then I don’t like choosing my return journey in advance.

It’s all different now however, because now we’re budgeting. We’ve come to the shocking realisation that there’s not much money down the back of the sofa, my furniture and clothes are of little value, and I would quite like to keep my organs rather than sell them on the black market.

After years of earning a more than decent salary it’s a rude shock to discover a) that I have saved very little, and b) I fritter money away on all sorts of rubbish. This is the kind of thing that budgeting makes you aware of.

I’ve realised that, while I’m no Immelda Marcos, I think nothing of buying a pair of shoes in my lunch break. I’m not a caffeine addict yet I probably spend at least £30/week in coffee related retail outlets. I like to think of myself as immune to cheap retail advertising tactics but can’t deny that I’m a glutton for the variety of ‘buy one, get one free’ offers that line the queues at supermarkets. Add to that the fact that I’m almost incapable of spending less than £30 a time when I go into chemists (even though I only went in for £2 toothpaste), budgeting is more of a struggle than I initially expected.

It’s all quite a novelty at the moment – watching what I spend – and I would go so far to say that I’m secretly enjoying myself (within reason), I do however see the not so enjoyable in my immediate future:

  1. Bringing in packed lunches to work
  2. Getting the bus to work (as opposed to the tube)
  3. Getting the bus home after a night out (as opposed to a taxi)
  4. Not going on a night out
  5. Saying (after a meal) I’m only paying £x because I had the cheapest thing on the menu
  6. Asking “how much?????” when paying for my groceries in the corner shop
  7. Not going to the corner shop
  8. Digging clothes out the back of the wardrobe and claiming that it feels like “shopping in your own bedroom”
  9. Looking up where the local Lidl is while forgetting what my favourite aisle in Waitrose looks like
  10. Checking how many minutes I have left with my mobile network provider before picking up the phone

All this is about as familiar to me as the Koran is to the Chief Rabbi, and some of it (notably #1 and #5) fills me with horror. Luckily I have two things in my life that will spur me on. One is that I have the most frugal partner in the world, an expert in eating for free, with the patience (of a saint) to the get the bus between Hackney and Chelsea every day.  Two is a 3 storey townhouse in St Ives which overlooks the ocean.

I’m finding out that having a really good reason for making the effort is all it takes. Things that have always been under the ‘No, Never!’ list suddenly don’t seem that much of a trial. After all, we need to be able to pay that mortgage when we eventually get down there and if that means sacrificing a few coffee shop coffees, and missing out on a few dinners then so be it.