Use What You Have Week.

By Alison October 4, 2007 22 Comments 3 Min Read


I must have been a wretched wicked old witch in a former life. This morning my hairdryer spontaneously combusted and sent itself to a long overdue grave and a couple of hours later while enjoying Miss Potter with a teeny tiny mozzarella and red onion tart of my own devizing, the house started to shake and then the boiler went BOOM! Boom it went, and a nice glass of cranberry cordial spread a purpley pink pattern over my cream jumper.

If I was an ordinary human being with an ordinary job and ordinary money set aside for everyday emergencies these kind of crises wouldn’t spread a rash of horror across my skin, but alas, my little chickadees, being thoroughly  ridiculous,  and the kind of single mummy electioneering politicians like to  develop entire campaigns around, these are just the kind of traumas likely to  finish me off.  And so I find myself cutting my cloth to stretch to plumbers and mechanics and the possibility of dry hair one day in the future and wondering how in heavens name it will be possible for me to stretch an already stretched budget in order to live to fight another damned day.

I’m tired.

But babbas need warmth. And frankly, sadly, I can’t live with wet hair or live without a car. And so it starts with teabags. I open the tin and there aren’t any. Immediately my apron is dashed to the floor and I’m running past the church to the post office to buy more, before spinning on my heel back again without them because you know what I may not have my favorite builders brew extra strong Tetley teabags, but heck couldn’t I win a prize for my drawer full of  fancy schmancy rose and lavender and white and green and probably purple sprouting brocolli flavoured bags?

I have enough teabags to last me into the next millenium. I have flour, in many many forms and yeast and eggs and sugar and tinned everything and a freezer full of homemade chilli and scouse and pea and mint soup. I’ve got dried pasta, chopped chilli and garlic, herbs growing n my draining board, three types of rice, every type of dried bean you care to mention, jam and sun dried tomatoes, chocolate chips, oats and golden syrup. There is parmasan, chorizo and feta in the fridge. Bags full of frozen veg, cookie dough and sauteed onions lurking in the freezer. Food a plenty. Food that could keep me and one little munchkin going for an age with a little ingenuity and a little less of the almost constant urge to shop….

And so for the sake of snuggly feet and a car that goes I am declaring this my USE WHAT YOU HAVE WEEK.  Use the dregs of shampoo in the bottle, forsake your favorite pink washing powder  and grate some soap into some washing soda and be done with the matter.  Actually read the magazines stacked at the side of  your armchair before you buy more. Bake bread.  Drink obscure tea.  Raid the pantry and feast …

Tonight I will start with a  chorizo and bean bake, ingredients straight out the pantry no shopping required… and ok so it won’t pay my terribly nice plumber Richard, but it is one step towards cosy toes isn’t it?

Chorizo and Bean Bake.

Ingredients: One tin of beans  (Any: flagolet, haricot, butter, any),  one tinned  of chopped tomatoes.  Chorizo or any old kinda sausage. One sauteed onion. One clove of garlic or dried or chopped equivalent. Breadcrumbs. And chopped parsley to garnish.

Method:  Shove all the ingredients into a  casserole dish, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake for twenty minutes. Serve with a generous amount of fresh parsley and feel strangely virtuous …

Life will go on, won’t it?


  1. Grace says:

    Your cup is always half full of champagne, not half empty. When life gives you lemons, you whip up an icy cold pitcher of lemonade, complete with a garnish of homegrown, fresh mint leaves. When life's the pits, you bake up a scrummy cherry pie with a homemade, flaky crust. And, somehow, you have enough heart to open your doors and share your delicious, I'll-make-do-with-what- I-have feast with all of us all around the world. Ah, you continue to amaze and inspire me. Thank you!

  2. Melanie says:

    Thanks for the inspiration Alison. Im always moaning about what I havnt got, but now I have the inspiration to use the things I have got, I guess sometimes we just have to make do.

  3. Anita says:

    Bravo! Wonderful post… I am so sorry everything is breaking down on you, but you're not letting it get you down and that is wonderful!
    We have "clean out the pantry" days every few weeks to keep the pantry less cluttered and make sure nothing goes to waste.

  4. debbie says:

    You are such an inspiration. Thanks for reminding me that what's in my heart is more important than what's in my wallet!

  5. Wendy says:

    The next thing you do is tp pour More cordial over the rest of the jumper and call it your NEW favorite!! Thank you, thank you ,thank you!!!For every periodical you don't buy, place that money in a secret spot for those days when it seems all goes wrong at the same time. For all the times you have the money and desire to eat out but don't, put the money away. It is amazing how it all adds up, so quickly in my case. Wendy

  6. Grace says:

    I love the way you always strive to see the positive in every situation, Alison.
    I've been trying very hard to use the "use what you have" principle due to a never-moving debtload, a lot of scary upcoming financial/work changes and simply what you said – tiredness.
    Hang in there – I'm so glad you've inspired me to keep plodding along.

  7. Gail says:

    Peg Bracken (I Hate to Cookbook) calls this "Living Off Your Hump" – I was just talking to my husband this a.m. about how the Sept budget got waylaid with random grocery trips and takeout purchases (not that he cares…) and that I wanted to make the effort to use what was on hand through this wild and wooly month. There's a weird part of me that feels vaguely pioneer-y and likes the challenge about "making do" – that is until I see the new Vogue and get derailed. Thank goodness for the library (and for the 5# sack of sugar stashed under the bed).

  8. Sasha says:

    Chorizo bake…. Yummmmm! I too am trying to economise this month due to a financial back-log and forthcoming commitments. I'm sorry things are breaking down at mo – major bummer. BUT, you have the most healthy and sane attitude to it all (and a wicked sense of humour about life to boot – essential!!) As someone else here has said, fate works in mysterious ways and the good news is you DID receive the money to cover the car repair, and you CAN economise to cover the boiler. We are all very lucky really. Things will come round full circle in the end, you'll see! And I do always feel very virtuous having to think about using what I have to hand – it's another extension of our creativity after all! And then, when finances allow, what better excuse to re-stock the pantry with new and exciting yummy stuff??!! Enjoy!

  9. Sasha says:

    PS: What is it with tea-bags??? I too have a strange assortment of herbal this with Echinacea, and herbal that for skin clearing purposes, Green tea with every kind of fruit under the sun….. why oh why??? I only ever drink organic Tetley myself!! I'm not the only weirdo then….

  10. Oh yes…"almost constant urge to shop"… that ailment has me over the rail too! And I could have some savings if it weren't for that wretched ebay! Wicked temptress that she is. =) Blessings… Polly (His grace really is new each morning, thankfully!)

  11. mimi says:

    When Carl was out of work, and there was no sign at work, I worried about money. When the car exhaust fell off, all I could think of was money falling out of the back of the car. It is odd, but nicely odd, the comfort I got from finding out coupons in the free supermarket magazines, getting buy one get ones and raiding the reduced shelf! I felt like it was some kind of comfort, like I was DOING something. I think that is perhaps the thing…by choosing to economize you have a bit of power over the situation. Anyway, good thoughts sweetie! It will all come right, and I imagine a lot of us will be eating your delicious chorizo bake!

  12. Nonnie says:

    I so know how you're feeling. I had a bad month last month with my car breaking down. Luckily I did have some savings to pay for it but it was still quite horribly depressing, especially as this is my first month living(and budgeting) on my own after my recent breakup. You've really inspired me though(yet again!) to have my own 'use what I have' month. There is something secretly very satisfying about economising. I'll definitely be trying the chorizo and bean bake. Sounds delicious.

  13. Nicola says:

    This is exactly what I have to do over the next few months, while I try and settle into a new routine of living on my own and budgeting for everything. This post is so inspirational!

  14. Heather T. says:

    Oh dear, oh dear! Thank your lucky stars that at the very least you have curly hair and might not need the hairdryer immediately!

  15. Gill says:

    Hang in there Alison, you'll get through this. We're really hard up just now and for the next year or so, and I need to stick to a tight budget. You give sound advice and have really inspired me to use what I have. I've got a cupboard and a freezer full of food and yet still I buy more. I'm going to follow your lead this month. Good post!

  16. dianeinjapan says:

    Ha! I am totally the same way with tea–I have loads of bags, boxes, and tins of gunpowder green, orchid oolong, Long Life herbal, you name it–but don't dare let me run out of my cheap-o bagged English Breakfast!

  17. Jade Michele says:

    Last night my children and me had Ramen noodles and lemon cupcakes for dinner! -and- I always run out of teabags before I ever run out of herbal teas too.

  18. Ali says:

    When life hands you lemons, you clone those lemons and make super lemons! – Futronimus aka No 1 Son.
    I hope your boiler got fixed!
    Ali x

  19. Rhonda says:

    Sheer words of wisdom. I love how you have taken your misfortune and used it for inspirtaion.
    You are wise indeed.

  20. farmlife4014 says:

    Dear Lord, girl!
    It seems like we live that way every few months! Just when we get a few dollars ahead something happens! It is ridiculous! But we're healthy, we have a roof over our heads and food to eat, so, even though I would LOVE to be one of those who can run out and replace things whenever they want to, I always seem to have what I need…just not always what I want!!!
    Hope the boiler gets fixed soon, though.That would be bad to be without very long.
    God bless.

  21. Ruth says:

    I often read your blog and never leave a comment – I don't know why because everything you write is a delight to read. I think yours is one of the best I visit, it's so visually attractive too and I often wonder where you get all your old pictures that you put with your posts. It's probably my age, being brought up by a mother who lived during the war and rationing but I rarely throw any food away and will create another meal around leftovers!

  22. Tina says:

    hope things all get fixed soon. have a good week!

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