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Helicopter to Monaco

All in the name of research: LoveRichCashPoor jets off to Monaco

Friday

Wake up with: £50

Go to bed with: £32.04

Our back door has decided that it will no longer lock. Cue much heaving and exclamations of disbelief until it’s threatening to make me late for work. I rush off, leaving the husband to deal with it, then feel guilty. Luckily, the boss says I can work from home for the afternoon, so I cycle back at lunchtime to wait for the repair man (no charge, thank god). When I get home, the internet and cable won’t work. When will it stop? I phone our provider to discover it’s a network-wide fault and they are ‘working on it’.

Despite last week’s epic fail on the budget front, we still have no food in the house — even the store cupboard is bare; we’ve run out of pasta, rice, tinned tomatoes and tea bags and we’re dangerously low on washing powder. I do a grand tour of the shops to replenish stocks. I’m delighted to find a leg of lamb for just four pounds (half price), but not so thrilled to see that my preferred brand of washing powder is £12. Good grief – I’m going to have to make the last half an inch left in the cupboard last until the next deal.

Saturday

Wake up with: £32.04

Go to bed with: £25.27

The husband and I have been on Rightmove again as part of Plan 4623 Part C. We have an appointment to see three houses today, so it’s up at the crack of dawn to drive to Sussex. The good news is we find our dream house. The bad news is that the agent tells us it will go to sealed bids, and sell for at least 100k over the asking price. A little piece of my heart dies when she says this. I. Want. That. House.

The next two properties do not cheer me up. Luckily, the lunch does; we retreat to the magnificent King’s Arms in Rotherfield to lick our wounds (and our plates). This pub is one of the reasons we want to move to Sussex, and over lunch, we decide that as we clearly can’t afford our dream house, a compromise is in order. We’re just not sure what that compromise is right now. The husband and I choose our lunch to correlate with the £20 note he has in his pocket, and I pay for the drinks.

On the way home (well, not at all on the way but it sounded logical at the time), we stop by the Browns’ residence for tea, cake, gossip and a gasp at the new bump. The husband kindly stops at one of the many roadside cherry stalls en route so I can stock up on my very favourite snack. Bliss. We get back late, bellies full of chocolate cake – so no tea necessary.

Sunday

Wake up with: £25.27

Go to bed with: £25.27

Today it’s back in the car for a belated father’s day celebration with the in-laws. After a superb lunch of lemon chicken wrapped in parma ham and home-grown new potatoes, we pop by to chill with our god-daughter Pickle, her parents and bump no 2 for an hour. Pickle gets very excited when I lift the lid off a pot of curry that’s simmering on the stove and shout ‘ta da’. Hours of amusement ensue: Pickle can now communicate her wishes by way of pointing and she thinks it is a jolly good game! It’s such a joy to see her growing and learning new tricks. I smile all the way home.

The football is on again this evening, and the cable company must still be ‘working on it’ as we have no signal, so the husband moves the television into my kitchen, severely restricting my worktop space. Sacre bleu! I improvise a lahmacun out of the raw ingredients in the fridge for the boys.

Monday

Wake up with: £25.27

Go to bed with: £16.60

Supper club provides the perfect opportunity to cook my bargain leg of lamb. We’re toasting the arrival of the first supper club baby tonight. Welcome to the world little one!

Tuesday

Wake up with: £16.60

Go to bed with: £16.60

Now I am not a lover of exercise, but I’m developing a paunch and the budget prevents me from joining a gym; so it’s off to the park to puff my way around the perimeter a couple of times.

Although, to be frank, you’d have to pay me to join a gym, rather than the other way around; this whole fitness lark is a total mystery to me. I mean, does anyone actually ever enjoy exercising? Really? Be honest.

Personally, I just don’t get it. My average run goes as follows:

[first two or three steps] Okay, I can do this.

[five steps later] God, I’m exhausted

[first corner of circuit] You’re actually kidding me, I’m going to die

[second corner of circuit] I wonder if I could fake a sprained ankle to get out of this?

[second corner-third corner of circuit] Oh, okay, I’m actually not going to die. But by god I’m bored, I’m so BORED. How is this not over yet?

[third corner-fourth corner of circuit] No wait, I am going to die. I’m going to die people!

[end of circuit] Collapse on ground, red-faced, dripping in sweat. Vow never to do this again.

Wednesday

Wake up with: £16.60

Go to bed with: £16.60

I jump on the bike straight after work and cycle to Chalk Farm to tuck in my younger god-daughter Tiz. As I hold her on my lap, breathing in her delicious baby scent and read her a bedtime story, a wave of broodiness sweeps over me. In my defence, it’s been slowly building throughout this most babytastic of weeks, with the birth of the supper club baby, a visit to each of my gorgeous god-daughters and a couple of bumps thrown in for good measure. It’s quite a shock as, although I love a baby, I’m a late bloomer where broodiness is concerned but it’s a reminder that we need to find that compromise, and soon.

Coincidentally, when I get home, the husband says he may have the answer. Readers, we may be back to plan 4623 Part A… I’ll keep you posted.

Thursday

Wake up with: £16.60

Go to bed with: £16.60

Total savings so far: £752.78

Hip hip hooray for payday! Thankfully, the computer meltdown over at RBS has not affected LoveRichCashPoor. Still, when I look at my bank balance, I do wonder whether a bank error has been made in my favour. Thanks to the fact that I have paid off my credit card and my student loan and thus the repayments are no longer being deducted from my bank balance, I finish the month £792.78 in credit. This is a small miracle. If I save £750 a month, I could shave five whole months off my saving mission. I say ‘if’ because some months, I am going to spend that extra bonus money on something very special – but rest assured, I will not be spending it on me…. This month, I shall save £750 and use the extra £40 to buy a present for the husband. Here’s hoping you can all keep a secret.

Today, I’m off on an all-expenses paid trip to Monaco (not really in the spirit of budgeting, but hey, I’m not complaining!). It’s for my day job, but I’m keen to investigate the most famous tax haven and playground of the rich and famous with my blogger hat on too. Even the itinerary reads like an out-of-body experience for someone who has never banked more than the average wage; apparently, I’ll be travelling from the airport to the hotel in a helicopter. And to think I get excited by the prospect of splashing out on the Heathrow Express!

I’m looking forward to seeing just how addictive this lifestyle is. I want to know what can seduce a person into thinking that it’s okay to dodge their taxes or to fix interest rates. I want to know why money seems to corrupt and how people who I consider to be very rich, always seem to want more.

See you on the other side…

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spaghetti ai frutti di mare - seafood spaghetti

Oh great, it’s football time again. In celebration of the world’s (or Europe’s anyway) long-suffering football widows, here’s an indulgent dish to be enjoyed alone…

My fishmonger gave me the mussels when I told him why I only needed four. Bonus!

I was going to cook this ‘in cartoccio’ (wrapped in a parchment parcel and baked in the oven), but I am so rubbish at anything that requires neat little folds and patience, that I abandoned that plan… I don’t think it has had an adverse effect on the flavour!

Serves: 2

2 tiger prawns, shells on

1 squid, cut into rings (my fishmonger did this for me)

4 mussels, thoroughly cleaned and checked (they should close when tapped, or they are dead and therefore inedible)

3 tomatoes, chopped

A pinch of sugar

1 red onion, chopped

A splash of white wine (about half a glass)

A handful of fresh basil leaves

A squeeze of lemon juice

100g squid ink spaghetti

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Lemon wedges to serve

Plunge the spaghetti in boiling water and let it bubble up for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a drizzle of olive oil in a frying pan. Add the onions and prawns and fry until the shrimp have turned pink (a minute or two each side should do it, depending how large they are) and the onions have softened. Throw in the squid and mussels, toss, and then chuck in the tomatoes.

Fry for a couple of minutes until the tomatoes break down and the mussels open up, then add the wine and sugar and simmer down, but not so long that the shellfish overcook. Drain the pasta, toss in the sauce and squeeze over the lemon juice. Serve with a sprinkling of fresh basil and salt and pepper to taste. You shouldn’t need much salt as the squid ink spaghetti has a wonderful taste of the sea.

Find somewhere where the incessant drone of football commentary is at a minimum and enjoy in peace!

Tomato, goat's cheese and honey lahmacun

Somehow, pizza seemed a little too unpatriotic yesterday evening, and we needed something quick, easy and light for tea; we’d eaten like kings courtesy of the in-laws at lunchtime and our cable has gone caput. The husband therefore hijacked the kitchen, installing a huge television on my worktop so he could watch the football the old-fashioned way: via the aerial.

There’s not much a girl can cook with no worktop space and three hungry boys underfoot, so I improvised: lahmacun – the Turkish equivalent of pizza – with a twist. Lahmacun is usually covered in spiced ground lamb; here I’ve used one of my favourite combinations, inspired by Bonton’s magnificent filo parcels: goats cheese, honey and tomato.

The dough is easy to make from scratch, but my hands were tied by the time and space constraints, so I used flatbreads.

Serves: 2-4 (depending whether a starter, snack or main)

2 flatbreads

100g creamy goat’s cheese – mine was from Lubborn Creamery in Somerset – cut into slices

Two ripe tomatoes, finely sliced

A generous sprinkling dried oregano

Half a red onion, finely sliced

A good drizzle of honey

Pre heat the oven to 190C.

Arrange the tomatoes and goat’s cheese over each flatbread, then scatter over the oregano and onion.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the tomatoes are soft, the goats cheese oozing and the flatbread crisp.

Drizzle the honey over the flatbread and slice to serve.

Friday

Wake up with: £80

Go to bed with: £62.32

Boo hoo, it’s time to fly back to the UK. Mum drives us to the airport and we hug goodbye. Should I be worried that she cried when we arrived, but not when we left?

I hate airports. I hate the whole ridiculous security rigmarole. Why do I need to put all my liquids in a sealable plastic bag? Why does it need to be of set dimensions? Why do I have to pay £1 for said plastic bag? The constant in-out, in-out, shake it all about of bags, passports, tickets and liquids is tiresome in the extreme.

This time they confiscate the beautiful silver-plated fork I bought at the recyclerie in Bordeilles. Honestly, I know I’ve suffered from Ryanair-rage in the past (no, I don’t want a scratchcard, I want you to stop making these incessant sales pitches over the tannoy), but I can be trusted with an antique fork. Still, at least I still have the spoon.

I’m so exhausted by the time we get home that we collapse on the sofa and order an Indian takeaway. It’s naughty, but worth it.

Saturday

Wake up with: £62.32

Go to bed with: £55.33

After a morning restoring order to our flat and chipping away at the laundry mountain, we travel to Leyton for a friend’s housewarming. It’s a miraculously dry day and we spend the day basking in the sunshine, drinking rose and admiring the beautiful house and garden. We get home late and drunk. And so to bed.

Sunday

Wake up with: £55.33

Go to bed with: £13.12

After a week’s break, it’s time to prepare for the return to work—and this isn’t going to be any old week. This is a super scary deadline week and everyone in my team is either on holiday or paternity leave, so it falls on me to pick up the slack.

Time to stock up on food and cook my little socks off so I won’t be tempted to stray off budget when it’s late and I’m exhausted and hungry.

First though, I set off on a foraging mission to collect elderflowers. In truth I know exactly where to find them in N16—I spotted them last weekend when I was out compiling my Stoke Newington top 10— but I can’t possibly reveal the source: first, because a good forager keeps her cards close to her chest and, second, because I’m pretty sure you aren’t supposed to pick flowers in London parks. Ssshhh.

saag aloo deconstructed for summer Indian food recipe

Monday

Wake-up with: £13.12

Go to bed with: £11.77

I’m extremely glad of my packed lunch, leftover five spice broth and pork dumplings, come lunchtime. It’s a nightmare of a day, rescued by the fact that, on the way home, I spot a little pharmacy on Kingsland Road and finally manage to track down the elusive citric acid for my elderflower cordial. It’s a case of 11th time lucky.

We have our usual Monday supper club, only dinner is served considerably later than normal, and I make chicken curry and a summer version of saag aloo. The highlight is definitely the super birthday brownies bought round by Casetteboy. I wish I had made up the recipe for those babies.

Tuesday

Wake-up with: £11.77

Go to bed with: £11.77

A complete contrast of a day today. Somehow, I have managed to end up working in the luxury industry. That means that I spend a large part of any given weekday writing about watches that are worth more than my house, expensive face creams and ultra-plush hotels. Today, it’s the opening of the Bvlgari hotel in London and I’ve been invited for a tour and a lunch. It is beautiful, but methinks slightly outside LoveRichCashPoor’s price range.

When I get home, there is no food in the house and it is very late. I want to give up and get a take away. Thankfully the husband stays strong and manages to talk me down from my curry goat ledge. He is duly dispatched to the shop for supplies and I make a pasta sauce for us both.

Wednesday

Wake-up with: £11.77

Go to bed with: £11.77

The husband emails me at work: a house that made the shortlist back in November has reappeared on Rightmove, and it’s £15k cheaper too. Our last appointment was cancelled because the vendor’s boiler exploded, we saw dream house number one that day instead. I ring the agent and book an appointment for Saturday. Please property god, let this be the one.

I’m a football widow tonight—there’s some Euro 2012 thing on apparently—but I’m grateful for the chance to curl up on the sofa in my dressing gown with the remote control and a bowl of pasta. Bliss. I watch Grayson Perry’s All in the Best Possible Taste, which is fascinating, although a little too disturbingly accurate in places—my Le Creuset habit marks me out as a middle class creative, apparently (true).

Thursday

Wake-up with: £11.77

Go to bed with: £4.18

Curls is coming to dinner so we can be football widows together – hurrah! I haven’t seen her for years (okay, a month) so we have plenty to catch up on. Unfortunately, the cupboards yield little joy. I decide to make a polenta and courgette bake, served with crusty bread and a green salad. Peasant food for a peasant budget. The wine is not at all budget; Curls has decided that we are grown up enough for ‘good wine’ and brings a beautiful crisp Sauvignon Blanc.

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