Monday, 9 April 2018

How I lived on £5 per week as a student

This may potentially be the most boring post ever™. I don't really feel like a student now, mainly because 1. it's almost over, thank god, and 2. I gave up on that whole living with 6 people thing a while ago. When I was a studenty student I *hated* spending money (and I still do really). I was determined to live off as little as possible. Of course some weeks my shop would be slightly more/less expensive but in general I was living off around £5 per week.

First a disclaimer:
  1. I am a small female. At 5'1" and 50kg (110lbs), I do not need to eat as much as the 'average' person. Even now I eat 1000-1500 calories a day.
  2. This £5 is just for food. Alcohol and nights out are extra but if you save this much on food you can still have fun while everyone else is in their overdraft!
  3. Since fruit and veg is sold by the kg I didn't know how to add this to my list very well, sorry.
  4. It's much easier to spend £10 for 2 people rather than £5 for 1, which is what happened most of the time. We shared vegetables and cooked up a stir fry to use up leftovers.
This table gives an idea of what was in my cupboards/fridge/freezer. The freezer is king. Sometimes I would even buy the biggest bottle of milk and freeze some of it to save money. Haha, this post is really making me realise how much of a miser I was. But seriously, freeze your bread.

How long will it last?   Cost per week  
EssentialsMilk£0.75   1 week£0.75
Eggs£0.852 weeks£0.43
Porridge oats      £1.60 10 weeks £0.16
MeatsChicken thighs£3.152 weeks£1.58
Frozen white fish   £2.003 weeks£0.67
Frozen prawns£2.503 weeks£0.83
StodgeLentils£1.158 weeks£0.14
Potato£0.252 weeks£0.12
Wholemeal bread£0.403 weeks£0.13
Couscous£1.2012 weeks£0.10
(apologies for the table formatting, I'm not the best at html)

Other essentials like onions, garlic, mushrooms, tinned tomatoes and other veg it's really hard to remember how much I'd get through. There was a very cheap vegetable market that my house would take turns getting stuff from and sharing it which is a great idea.

The key to my frugality was making food in batches and then freezing. A nice big chili con carne can last for an age and you don't have to eat the same thing every day. I liked having the prawns to mix up with couscous and salad stuff when I wasn't feeling the stodgy homemade meals. Frozen fish you can cook in tin foil with some potato and lemon juice. Lentils are great for filling out stews and soups.

So in conclusion, my tips:
  1. Buying big bags of lentils/rice/pasta and keeping them in the cupboard is a great way to save. The weeks when you have to restock these it'll be more expensive, but will even out in the long run.
  2. Supermarket own brands are fine. If in doubt just look at the price per kg.
  3. NEVER buy basics mince though, that is my exception to that rule. It's not worth it. In fact, meat in general. However stodgy things like bread and pasta there's no difference.
  4. The key to cheaper cuts of meat (like thighs rather than breast...heh) is to cook it slowly in stews or casseroles. They're a bit fattier but also tastier because of it.
  5. If you're worried about not getting your nutrients for strong and healthy growing you can buy one-a-day multivitamins for £3 that will last you for 6 months.
  6. Make the most of university events! Career events particularly provide free pizza, and if you help at open days and school visits you get food as well as money. They used to send around an email in the physics department if there were leftover sandwiches on offer in the seminar room... cue a not-so-subtle upstairs migration of PhD students.
Hope you can forgive my dodgy maths and appreciate this as more of an idea I was trying to get across!

Limpet x

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Time and Space Squid

What kind of science fiction makes a grown woman invest emotion in a genetically enhanced squid?

The book is called Time by Stephen Baxter, and it's about space squid. No joke. It's great.

This book is called Time. I'm only half-way through it, and already it's managed to walk through the whole future of humanity up to 10170 (that's 170 extra zeros) years away, past when the only light in the sky is the brief flickers of matter as it passes through the event horizons of black holes. Of course this kind of time is incomprehensible, that's the whole point of the book. Does it make life any more precious, any more different? Is it comforting if you knew that your descendants would be there right up until everything has just, sort of, drifted away and died. Such a long time away that even the protons and neutrons have decayed? Sometimes life feels like a struggle for meaning, and it goes back to what I've always thought. That there is no "meaning" to it all, we just exist. Sorry, not sorry. Religious ideals and other spiritual callings have never cut it for me. They seem cowardly, giving importance where there isn't any. We just survive and reproduce and then our children survive and reproduce, and try not to mess up the planet on the way to eternity. You can spin it in that depressive way, but it's also awesome. I mean that by the definition of the word, inspiring awe. There's so much around us, and it's refreshing sometimes to be reminded how small we are. Because in 10170 years, who's going to know about it? Scrap that, even in 200 years I'll have faded out of memory. I exist for myself, and for my loved ones. We can comfort each other in the emptiness.

I crocheted some space squid on their space rocket, too. The rocket is a christmas present for a not-quite 2-year-old. I'm planning to start him thinking about this stuff early. So he's prepared, you know?

Limpet x

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Things I Want to Change About Myself

The 'S.S. Kate', because one of my pen friends is adorable.

This is a list! A short list of things I want to change about myself:

Get off antidepressants
-it's time and I think I'm ready. If you guys want to hear more then let me know and I'll be open about everything.
Be able to code for simple physics
-it would make my job so much easier if I knew what physics would do before it did it!

Cut my hair short?
-I've been almost sitting on it for years now and fancy a bit of a change
Have a six-pack (of abs, not beer!)
-I know it's there, just need to go the final push and lose the last centimeter
Give blood whenever I can
-this was important to me, but I keep making excuses
Get a tattoo
-it's my body and I want to make a mark on it
Stretch my ear lobes
-being brave and looking a little different
More piercings
-as above

There are many more 'physical' than 'mental' items which I know may seem shallow. But on the whole I'm happy with myself and doing well in the great ol' journey of life. I feel like it's just time to make my mental self image line up more with what the rest of the world sees. I couldn't tell you exactly what that is, but it involves not being a little girl any more. All a part of growing up I suppose.

Limpet x

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Optics on the Surface of Mars

You know sometimes when I don't post for a while it's because I feel uninspired or I just haven't done much worthy of posting or there's so much going on in real life.

I just wanted to say that I am so happy. I'm doing my year in industry placement and I get to play with lasers and improve things that make an actual difference. My company has optical fibers on the surface of Mars for goodness sake, I'm doing real proper science!

I'm doing as well as humanly possible there, I love making my own experiments. I love talking to everyone from all different backgrounds and hearing how they got there. On Monday I'm going on a field trip to the National Physical Laboratory in London, and they're sending me on my own! I'm so looking forward to the future. Just a few short months at university afterwards and then I'm free!

I hope everything is hunky-dory with you too,

Limpet x

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Watercolour Adventure (Goal 54)

So this has kinda been my motto as of late. Physics, kung fu, painting, calligraphy... 
You always start off suckin' at it, but that's ok!
Who doesn't love a good photo-enriched blog post? Painting was a really fun thing for me as a child, and I'd gotten out of the habit. Goal 54 on my big old to-do list was to complete 5 watercolour paintings. I ended up doing more because it got more fun as I improved, and I wasn't sure what my definition of 'a painting' should be.

Commence photo dump!

Starting off copying my old nature reference books.Obviously some attempts turned out better than others, but this was my main learning stage!

Calligraphy experiments and some watercolour cards I'm pretty proud of.

Nice simple cherry blossoms and a slightly mixed-media crow and magpie for Mr Limpet's birthday.

Look on YouTube for a watercolour galaxy tutorial. Trust me, they're so easy and look awesome.

I hope you've enjoyed looking through my watercolour adventure. It's been a very enjoyable process, and I've liked having a little sketchbook to do quick doodley paintings when I feel like a bit of alone time. During a stretch of insomnia the doodley paintings also helped me forget I was meant to be sleeping, which helped me chill out enough to sleep.

Limpet x

P.S. Recently, goal 43 has also been reached, which was to move out with just my boyfriend. It's glorious, it really is. Things stay clean and, as if by magic, everything stays where I last put it down! Maybe more on that in a later post, because I had a lot of fun organising my book shelves in particular. They're pretty now.

Friday, 12 May 2017

D&D Dice Bags

D&D, or Dungeons and Dragons, is a game that I got into completely by accident. A little group of the Physicists have been playing it for a while, and I went along with a friend because she liked a boy there and didn't want to go on her own. It took a little getting used to, but I loved it.

My first campaign is finished now, and I had an awful lot of fun with Nini the goliath barbarian. Imagine a huge ginger woman who thinks she's only ten because she only has ten fingers to count on. Nini believed she was raised by rabbits, but it turned out they were just small fur-cloaked people that raised her after her barbarian village was ransacked. It was a lot of fun sending her on a voyage of self-discovery from which she learned very little. (Good at swinging a great-axe though!)

Campaign number two is going to start soon, where I will be playing as Ib Layzafeyse, a goblin who calls herself a laser monk. To be honest I just wanted to be able to use the kung fu/tai chi motto -"You're f*cking with my chi."

Instead of borrowing dice from the DM (dungeon master), I decided to buy my own. And all dice need a dice bag!

Dragon egg dice bags! As always it's a free pattern on Ravelry. The one on the right I made first, and it's so big I can fit my fist in it. I did 3 rows of 8 crocodile scales following the pattern, two rows of 7, two rows of 6, then one row of 5. I did a row of hdc at the top. 

Let me tell you how to reduce by one scale neatly:

The usual v-stitch pattern is this: 
*(dc, ch 1, dc) in next st, skip 2 st*

To reduce a row by one scale: 
*(dc, ch 1, dc) in next st, skip 2 st, (dc, ch 1, dc) in next st, skip 3 st*

To reduce a row by two scales:
*(dc, ch 1, dc) in next st, skip 3 st*

Then just sl st to the first v-stitch as before and carry on with the scales like usual.

The first one I made I'm calling my prototype. I next made a smaller one which I much prefer (otherwise I'll be tempted to buy enough dice to fill it!) by discounting step 4 in the bottom. At the end of this one I did *dc, dc, skip 1 st* around the top and then threaded my string through the skipped spaces, which makes it look a bit more eggy when it's closed.

I hope my little modifications are clear enough. The big scaly bag I'm going to give to 'girl who fancied boy' to foster a new character alliance, although Miss Layzafeyse does not play well with others.

I'm excited for my dice to arrive! Expect more photos when they do! (They're so prettyyyyy.)

Limpet x

Monday, 24 April 2017

It's Been a While

It hasn't been that long, but still, a while. I write this sitting in Krabi airport, Thailand, waiting to catch a flight back to Bangkok and from there, home.

It's been two weeks since I went outside without suncream on. I am the poster child for paranoid factor 50 application. It's bizarre because most Thai women I meet will comment immediately on my "lovely pale skin" but every other English girl wants a deep dark tan.

Waiting to take off. Bangkok airways keeps feeding us on this local flight. There's a lounge in the airport with food and drink, and they're just about to bring us another meal when we're in the air.

We came to Thailand because it's my uncle's 50th and his wife is Thai. It was a bit of island hopping, from Bangkok to Pattaya to Phuket to Phi Phi to Krabi to Bangkok again. I was expecting the whole family but it was just some of his middle aged friends and my cousin who I've never really talked to before. They organised it all quite badly and we were a bit of an afterthought because we weren't staying in the same hotels as them. On Phi Phi island we had a bad experience. Check out was at 11am, and the ferry wasn't leaving until 4pm. We planned to drink cocktails by the pier until then. However, the power to the whole island was out, and everywhere was shutting because of it. 30 degree humid heat without even a fan, dragging 20kg of luggage in a suitcase with missing wheels. I was starting to feel faint just sitting around so we dragged the suitcases to the other side of the island where my uncle and co were staying. They were just in their air conditioned pool, and it turns out they weren't even going to walk to the pier, they had a small boat booked. That coupled with having to get coaches from their hotel meant a lot of walking around for us, and a lot of waiting around. Anyway the point I'm trying to make is it would have been much better if we'd done our own thing and organised it ourselves.

Please excuse the rant, I wasn't intending it to be one.

Give me a few days to collate my photos and thoughts, and I will write a nice picture laden post all about my trip.

Khop kûn ka!

Limpet x

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Prettifying Storage Drawers

It's probably been almost a year since I actually completed this DIY, since it was back in March that I did my coat hooks. I came across the photos in my "miscellaneous crafting" folder and the sooner I get the writing down the better.

So here we have: a handy little set of pretty wooden storage drawers.

The original was something I got for my birthday. I was after one of those colourful plastic ones for all sorts of bits and bobs, but I thought this shouldn't be too hard to spruce up.

1. First paint about the outer edges of each box and down the sides too if you're a perfectionist. I just used acrylic since it won't be getting much wear and tear.

2. Next unscrew the tiny handles on the front and set them aside.

3. Glue some nice paper on the front of each box, making sure each square is the same size. I used origami paper, but anything will do. Use a screw to poke through the paper where the original holes were before the glue dries.

4. When it's dry, screw the little handles back on.

Et voila! One prettified storage box!

What do I keep in mine?
  • Dinosaurs (occasionally)
  • Hair bands
  • Hair clips/bobby pins
  • Buttons
  • Those bits of ribbon that I guess are for hanging clothes but you always cut them off anyway
  • Sequins that fell off a top
  • Used stamps
  • Paper clips
  • Washi tape
So there we have it! I think I've run out of things to cover in paper now but I'll see what I can do.

Limpet x

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Free Geometric Skull Cross Stitch Pattern

As a lil' sorry for it being a while since posting last, and because I've been meaning to do it for a while, I wanted to share my skull cross stitch with you along with a free pattern.

So this was the teaser I posted just before the new year, along with a filter-less photo of what it actually looked like. I decided a geometric rainbow border would contrast with the realism of the skull nicely, and designed it so it fits snugly inside a 6 inch frame.

I also think he'd look great with a wreath around him and a Christmas hat, but maybe that's just me! I kind of want to do one for each season of the year.

The pattern:

The pattern shown is 83 x 83 stitches, meaning that on 14 count aida it's almost exactly 6 x 6 inches. Of course you can adjust the border as you see fit, and I'm more than happy to assist if you'd like it in a different size and want some help.

In a black 8 inch frame with a black 6 inch border, under Alice on the living room wall. The angle is pretending to be artistic but really just avoiding the light reflection on the glass.

As someone who struggles to finish projects, I'm glad it's finally out and on display. I've actually been working on this for quite a while, but I lost my darker shade of grey and was forced to tidy the house to find it again!

Limpet x

Friday, 20 January 2017

Student Debt

I've been thinking about finances again, mostly because I strangely enjoy sorting them out. Maybe I was an accountant in a past life, or it's just because I enjoy maths.

There's an advert for a popular bank (the one I used to work for actually) that irritates me so much. Some young people are jumping on a sofa and reel off about how "it's so great that they give you an overdraft, I was in my overdraft by the third week, hurr hurr hurr I'm so silly." Literally every student bank account gives you an overdraft, it's nothing to write home about. Don't infantilise a whole group of people.

But anyway, a friend of mine was fretting about his student finance application recently. He was trying to work out how much he needed to live on and therefore how much maintenance loan he needed to apply for. So I said "why not just apply for the full amount? You probably won't end up paying it back anyway." It's the same reason that I chose to start third year again from the beginning rather than just coming back for January exams. I wouldn't have been able to attend lectures or redo coursework, just for the sake of saving an extra £3000 on my student loan. Seeing as this degree will cost me over £40,000 in loans anyway, what difference would that make?

The fact is that a student loan is going to be the cheapest long-term debt I'll ever have. Since it'll just take some from my earnings, I'll probably forget it's even there.

I really would recommend students just starting to work a part time job. I wish I had earlier on, but it baffles me how people can go into their overdraft so quickly. Sure, I'm pretty small and not materialistic, but some people were living on houmus and buying new clothes for goodness sake Because I make enough money working to cover my living costs right now, the maintenance loan I'll get this year will go straight into savings.

Money isn't supposed to make you happy and all that, but it's got to help...? Maybe I really am turning into an adult, if the prospect of financial security gets my blood pumping.

Apologies for the rambling post, but it's exam season and I'm procrastinating!

Limpet x