Confessions of a Yellow Sticker Shopper

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Sweet and Crunchy Stir Fry tonight, reduced from £1.27 to just 9 pence. © Southampton Old Lady
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Supermarket own brand essentials are cheap. Many products these days taste almost as good and sometimes even better than high-brand labelled foods.

I am a yellow sticker shopper. I haven’t always been. I have been almost rich; I have been almost poor. When I am on a limited budget, I become a strict Budgetarian, surviving on very little money, but eating quite well on a mixture of in-season vegetables and supermarket brand basics, coupled with reduced-price meal packs with yellow stickers because they are at the sell-by or best-before date.

When I was a student, I worked as a waitress for Southampton’s Top Rank Bannister Ballroom in the evenings which included a free burger each shift and weekly cinema tickets.

My College provided cheap lunches during the week; On Saturdays, I would take it turns with five other students to cook a meal for all six of us. I would always look for these yellow-stickerred food packs on the day to decide what we were having and shop late at the vegetable market (Kingsland Square), buying bruised fruit and veg. The menu each weekend was interesting.

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Chicken, chargrilled peppers with Moroccan Style Cous Cous. A healthy take-away Snack Pot reduced from £1.60 to 15 pence. And you don’t even need to do the washing up after.

 

One pot stews and curries were common because they were easy, and anything could be put it them. There was an Italian student who cooked delicious pasta sauces, and once someone made a pie using a tin of dog food (Pedigree Chum) as the filling – which was awful – but I could taste the beneficial added vitamins!

Those were very happy, memorable times and very different to today whereby students seem to live on expensive take-aways delivered to the door.

I hope that with these days of student loans, I can offer this article as advice – “Throw away those pizza delivery leaflets, that bombard your letter-boxes, immediately”.

Once I had a full-time job, I ate whatever I wanted and ate out at restaurants quite often, sometimes three times a week.

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A year after my chemo I went back to work, but after a year or two, chemo brain (which is slang for a cognitive problem following certain types of Cancer and its treatment) came knocking and I was forced to give up working. So I currently have no income. My husband is paying off a £12,000 debt due to a mistake made by the DWP (pensions department) in 2007. So we are currently back to living a thrifty lifestyle.

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My husband often makes our own bread, but we often take advantage of reduced priced bread when we need extra.
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One pint of beer each at The Cowherds pub on Southampton Common – a treat not taken for granted.

We are back to yellow stickers, shopping coupons and free entertainments other than television. By free entertainments, I mean free festivals and walks – local seniors were allowed in free to Southampton Boat Show.  So we went to that last week.

Because we are careful, we are able to treat ourselves to little luxuries, such one pint of beer in a pub or perhaps a discount meal at a restaurant once a month.

My husband was brought up on war rationing, which was really difficult, so he learned many budget cooking skills and how to grow our own vegetables.

Do you have any food shopping confessions?

Unto Cowes and Come Home

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From Shamrock Quay along the River Itchen and under its bridge into Southampton Water

Regular readers will know that I am going to live on a sailing boat  with my husband as we have to move soon. We are selling or giving away worldly goods and doing up an old Maxi 95 sloop.

As it has been 15 years or so since I did any sailing, and pre-cancer/chemo, I thought it best to go on a refresher sailing course with a Royal Yachting Association (RYA) instructor.

Last weekend I got on a run as a team of five of like-minded individuals also honing their skills. We sailed from Shamrock Quay in Southampton to the Isle of Wight, where Cowes Week brought sailing boats from all over the world.

 

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Plain sailing on the Solent

The severe treatment for my Hodgkin Lymphoma left my body and brain somewhat disorientated. I describe my brain as living in a town where a bomb has hit and roads have been blocked off. I have had to find detours and rebuild. I had been having terrible balance problems since the treatment, but following a number of NHS exercises I have not had any accidents for about a year now.

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We anchored just off Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. This was Queen Victoria’s favourite residence and this her own private beach. It opened to the public 2 years ago.

Although I was used to sailing I had been extremely nervous about going out, especially onto the Solent, which requires strength, skill and alertness due to its tides, geographical structure and the many number of different vessels using its channel.

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The marina on the Isle of Wight was busy for Cowes Week and took great skill to moor four abreast

This weekend course really helped me to regain my confidence and sort out what I could remember and what I needed to practice.

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Ready with a slip-line returning to port

I feel brilliant!

CHEMO BRAIN QUIPS No 3 – Venice

William Turner's Venice
William Turner’s Venice

chemo brain buttonMy chemo-brain quips have been improving since I have been doing this blog – I haven’t had many for a while. Mainly I get names mixed up now. I was able to correct typos about floods in Columbia instead of writing Cumbria.

I have been obsessed with Venice too for some reason lately. I actually booked a flight to Venice instead of Vienna where I will visit friends – that proved costly; I called a woman Venice instead of Veronica, and on New Year’s Day, I announced that we were having Venice pie instead of venison pie

Amazing People 1: Tamara

1st in a new series of people that I think are amazing…

Tamara Everington is a Haematologist. She works as a doctor for the NHS and is also a researcher.
Tamara Everington is a Haematologist. She works as a doctor for the NHS and is also a researcher.

P1120527Tamara Everington. This wonderful woman saved my life. I am so grateful to her. Everything I do now even writing this blog is all thanks to her. I know she gets paid by the NHS and that there were others on my Cancer team, also dedicated to me staying alive. This was during chemotherapy for Hodgkins Lymphoma and recovery. But I still think she is special and continues to save lives  every single day. Tamara was the first to pinpoint my illness when so many others failed. She took my side when I exercised my patient’s rights. She came in to hospital to check on me at weekends, when she could have been with her family. She spent hours of her free time writing up reports on my clinical trial so that others could benefit. She listens to me, always. She is just amazing.

Chemo Brain Quips No2 – Blue Plaque

chemo brain buttonAfter reporting a plaque missing from a one-time Ford (Hendy) building that was requisitioned as a factory for Spitfire parts during WW2 (currently the Voodoo Lounge and Buyology) in Vincent’s Walk, I have been on a mission taking photos of all the plaques I see in Southampton, in case they are stolen by metal thieves. There are a number blue plaques on homes from Emily Davies (feminist activist) to R.J Mitchell (aeronautical engineer designer – famous for the Spitfire). 

I had a call yesterday from a gentleman to tell me that my ‘blue badge’ was ready for collection. (A blue badge is a special disc to put in the car, so that a disabled person with mobility problems can get parked closer to the shops or on limited, designated places in busy areas).

But my chemo-brain could not link this thought thread, and in my head my blue plaque was ready. I told the man kindly that although I had made enquiries because it was missing, I had not actually ordered it myself. He assured me that someone else could collect it on my behalf if they filled out a form. I checked that it was for the Spitfire factory, but he assured me that it had my name on it!  Fame at last? All sorts went through my head until the council worker reinforced the words “blue badge” at least nine times before I realised my disabled parking disc was ready.

He had no sense of humour, when I apologised and pointed out that I suffered with cognitive disorder.

Buyology was used at a Spitfire parts factory from 1939 when it was a Hendy (Ford) garage. It was taken over by F.W Woolworth until  the early naughties and since then has had a number of different  owners.
Buyology was used at a Spitfire parts factory from 1939 when it was a Hendy (Ford) garage. It was taken over by F.W Woolworth until the early naughties and since then has had a number of different owners.

Chemo Brain Quips – No.1 – Peliquins

 

chemo brain buttonWhile sat with the family at dinner, my husband offered my daughter a glass of Malibu This was a tease, as she had bought herself a bottle of this cocktail on her coming of age and now feels sick at the thought of drinking it. I mentioned that at one time, I had been to Malibu beach in California. My daughter was surprised that a place called Malibu actually existed. I started to describe the beach and how it was frequented by pelicans (or at least that is what I thought I described, I had actually said ‘penguins’) – Penguins! They fell about laughing.

“Is that what I said? – I meant peliquins!” – even more laughter until I eventually managed to say,’pelicans’.

penguins beach