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Wednesday, 23 May 2018

The Budget

At last the gas and electric bill is coming down, obviously being  in Spain for a week  helped but so has the eagerly awaited warmer weather.  My combined fuel bill has gone from  £77 last month to £32 this month.  I would like to say the same for the food budget but I went a little off piste! Mainly because I managed to sell an old bathroom sink we've had hanging around for over a year. 

I cleaned it up and put it on Gumtree for £10 and it sold after 3 weeks.  So I used the money to buy extra bits and pieces this month. £10 doesn't sound a lot for a perfectly good sink but that's the price people will pay. Its normally landlords buy them as a cheap replacement for a property refurbishment.

I used the money wisely on a Lidl weekend offer. The extra mature cheese 830g was down to £2.39 from £3.99 so I got 2. The entire shop came to £8.71, the white bread is a treat now and again and a must for bacon sandwiches.

Sainsbury's have kindly sent me some more coupons. I will probably only use the  £8 off £40 so that's 20%off,  not bad as long as I choose wisely what I need.  The good thing with Sainsbury's is their own brand goods are quite good. I've also got a £1 Tesco voucher.

The first thing I added to my budget journal this month was my £5 overspend. Total spend this month was £111.85 - £10 from sink = £101.85 so an over spend of £1.85 which i'll carry forward to next month. My £5  Spring bonus from Iceland was put on my card on Saturday 19th so I went down and bought some yoghurt, fruit and cooked turkey which I love and its zero points on Weightwatchers.  
The lettuce is coming along in the garden so we are having salads and it's lovely.  

All in all a good month. My aim for the next month is to use up meat and fish in the freezer.  There's plenty in there, so after an initial big shop it will be basic buys only like milk, bread fruit & veg etc Then another bigger shop towards the end of my financial month to use the coupon. Bye for now. Tx

Monday, 21 May 2018

Worthwhile Freebie

Once again I would like to thank you for all your reassuring comments.  I know the decision is mine and I feel strong enough to make it regardless if I lose friends over it.  Renting abroad is an option and I would like to do this but short term. 

A few weeks ago I was at the library returning books when I happened to glance down at the open local newspaper on a table,  staring me in the face was this:

Yes free compost was being made available by the local council, all we had to do was turn up with our bags and fill them up.  And that's just what we did, we went to the local tip carpark and filled a large black dustbin with rich fibrous steaming compost. Its been used all around the garden. 
The beetroot, kale and cabbage seedlings have all been planted in the beds. The peas that I started in damp kitchen paper have been put in one half of the oil drum. The remainder of the beetroot seedlings have been put in the other.  I planted up the carrot seedlings I  also started  in damp kitchen paper as I find it radically reduces the need for thinning out. They are quite fiddly because
they're so small  but I now prefer to do it this way.  

I suppose I should be called the impatient gardener because I love to see things grow quickly. This form of sowing means I can crack on with successional sowings because I can see when things have failed.  The sunshine has been lovely but the breeze has been quite keen at times. The lawn is drying out very quickly and the edges are already turning hay coloured! Everything in the greenhouse is good, although I still think the tomatoes are small, I may have to buy a couple of more mature ones!  The courgettes are in flower but all male flowers as normal to begin with, so no courgettes forming just yet.  I kept the peppers in the conservatory because it has warmer overall temperatures. They will be put in the greenhouse before the end of the month.  

Everything in the garden is looking rosy and I'm hoping for bumper crops this year that will help my budget.  You can't beat garden to table in minutes!

How does your garden grow? I'll show you the peas and carrots in a couple of days time to see whether there is any progress. Plus the results of the successional sowings.  Bye for now Tx

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Back to Normal......whatever that is!

I have thrown myself into jobs around the house since returning from Spain in an attempt to take my mind off the fact that I know 'people' will think I'm spoiling their dream by not agreeing to it, or be prepared to organise it all! Anyway enough said, I'm going to concentrate on my future whatever happens I've put on 1.5lb because of stress and its got to stop, or I'll undo everything I've achieved over the last 18 months.
My brother looked after my plants while I was away, apparently the first five days were cold and my plants that I'd moved to the greenhouse suffered.  The cucumbers rotted off so I've planted more and the tomatoes just didn't do anything. I have a feeling that lots of the tomato plants are the bush variety.  You can see the difference between the 2 species. Everything else wasn't too bad.

The most important thing for me when I'm repotting is being comfortable so I grabbed a stool and table, clean pots and started thinning out and repotting. Hopefully the fresh compost and recent warmth will breed some new life into the plants.

Not everything was disappointingly stunted though, the strawberries had gone mad while I was away and they really look healthy.  The potatoes had shot up so mush I had to earth them up and they've already popped through again.

I think it will need redoing soon as they are already sprouting through.  The onions are through and I've constantly been picking lettuce and spinach leaves for our meals.

The beetroot is ready to go into the ground but hubby lent our staple gun out and we need it for the new netting on protective cover.  We should get it back by the end of the week and I can get them into the garden. The same with the cabbage and kale. 

This time of year always gives me such a thrill,  all that lovely food waiting to happen! Hows your garden growing? Off to sow more bits. Bye for now. Tx

Monday, 14 May 2018

Living in Spain

Thank You all for commenting on my last post. Some very useful tips and advice. 

I wanted to use the time in Almeria to find out the truth behind the mild winters and the costs of running a property there.  Each country has its own ways of collecting taxes and Spain isn't any different.  The two main ones on a property that doesn't belong to a complex of any description is the IBI  property tax and Refuse tax which are both annual amounts. You put all your rubbish in large heavy lidded  communal skip type bins which are emptied every night to stop unwanted pests and smells. If you live on a complex of any description you will pay communal fees for the maintenance of the gardens and pool etc. I did notice annual IBI fees were normally lower if you paid communal fees. 

During the week we viewed some properties and spoke with the owners regarding other outlays.  There was a 4 bedroomed, 2 bathroom house on a small complex of 10 properties with communal pool for sale at €170k (£149k).  There is additional VAT or Spanish IVA tax of 10% plus all the normal solicitors and search fees on the purchase of a property. The house was lovely and spacious, and the British owners were very friendly. They are moving further north in Spain to be near family.  He did say the property will be featured on the new series of Sun, Sea and Selling Houses on Channel 4 in the near future.  I purposely asked when they had filmed and it was the summer before. So I was able to establish the house had been up for sale for at least 9 months.  

Costs for this property: Communal Fees €630, IBI tax €178.85 per year, Refuse €143.80 per year, Water €400 a year, electric  €800 a year, 2 (15litre) gas bottles €30  and delivery of logs €250. Totals = 2432.65 Euros. Then  you will need the internet, TV package and mobile all much more of a necessity there. So total annual costs of approx. €3000 plus food and a car which is a must, transport is very poor in that area. 

We were accompanied on our property visits by the Estate Agent, who told us all about the area as he only lived 100 yards away.  He asked us if we had seen the new builds and plots of land for sale down the road. They were very nice but worked out very expensive and I was shocked that despite being brand new there was no building regulations on the thermal value.  There is no insulation in the walls or roof! Just as in the UK each property being sold has an energy certificate and I never saw one that a consumption of less than G which is very poor.  He also said property is on the rise  the expats we spoke to said the market is still very flat. Brexit has frightened the Brits. 
Almeria greenhouses from the air, 
Miles and Miles. 

Fresh food is so much better than here and the abundance of local markets means you can pick up fresh produce regularly. Almeria is one huge greenhouse, with miles and miles of fields full of plastic tunnels growing fresh produce.  There is also miles of courgettes in full flower and cavolo nero (black kale) with farm hands picking the leaves ready for processing. I came across a bag in Asda today of about 10 large leaves for £1. Market traders go directly to the farms to purchase vegetables so it helps keep prices lower. Two kilos of tomatoes are 50 cents. Shopping like locals and basing meals on seasonal produce would certainly help keep  our food bill a lot lower then the UK.

There are 3 main large supermarkets in that area,  Consum, Mercadona and Dia, with Lidl bringing up the rear. 

I don't want to take the responsibility for moving, there are far too many unanswered questions and I am a plan and prepare person, I do not 'jump in'.  I am worried I'd be bored, I am worried hubby would take ill. I feel I am carrying their dreams on my shoulders and I don't want that.  If they want to go they need to organise it for themselves.  Apart from the property being cheaper the rest of the bills are not vastly different to the UK and certainly not the low cost country we were led to believe.  Anna 'Treaders' has recommended we rent and that is sound advice for anyone wanting to relocate to a new country.  We don't speak Spanish and if we have any problems with bills etc we would be stuck.  I know lots of people have achieved it no problem but I'm uneasy about it all.  

Back to normal posting very soon....... Bye for now. Tx. 

Friday, 11 May 2018

Holiday, not quite!

We travelled out to Spain on Friday 27th April flying from London Stansted. We landed at Almeria airport almost 3 hours later to beautiful blue skies and  glorious sunshine something that had been missing from the UK throughout a long dreary winter.  We had  never been to this part of Spain before which was suggested by our friends who watch some program that is filmed here. We were pleasantly surprised by the fantastic dual carriage ways and lovely little towns.  The weather was great, not too hot but lovely warm days (20-26 degrees)and cooler evenings (9-15 degrees). This time it wasn't a fully catered package holiday, it was an apartment booked through Owners Direct, a flight and car rental through Ryanair.
Our home for 7 days

Almeria coastline
Our friends and hubby have been wanting to move to warmer climes since the 1980's but I've never been 100% on board. Hubby even went to Spanish lessons many years ago but he gave up after a while and resorted to learning from the old tape method in the car.  He can still remember bits of it but not a great deal.

Obviously with Brexit looming (29/3/19) lots of things have changed and will change.  I already knew the immigration rules for non EU people having been an Immigration officer before retiring. Unless you get Residency or VISA for Spain you will only be allowed 90 days in six months to stay there. All medical care would have to be paid for as the EHIC (European Health Insurance Card)  no longer cuts the mustard as the UK withdraws from the EU, so Medical insurance would have to be purchased and medications paid for.  Although some medical insurances will cover the cost of medications most will still enforce a percentage payment. Hubby is on two types of insulin One Type (Box of 5) cost 72 euros, the other type is 45 euros, his test strips were 75 euros for a box of 100.  My inhaler was 2.50 euros! A tentative look into insurance was 1100 euros per annum each! You will also need to prove a yearly income of 9500+ euros which isn't a problem for us but could be for our friends. 

It was suggested that his medication still be obtained in the UK but as I pointed out we still need to have health insurance as it was only a few months ago that he was in hospital seriously ill with pneumonia.  Unfortunately I spent most of the week playing Devils advocate and reading road systems so we didn't get lost.  Although I know I have a very good sense of direction, words failed me when they couldn't recall were we had visited or the places they didn't like!  I hold my hands up and say I was frustrated by the 'gung-ho' attitude of my travel companions and it was good to return home. 

I'll be back soon with the details of the property visits and the cost of living etc. Have you ever wanted to live abroad? Do you have a property abroad? Bye for now. Tx

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

A Little Cheat

Tesco had coffee and tea bags on offer last month but I couldn't afford them in last months £100 budget so I asked my daughter to purchase it on my behalf.  It did her a favour in a round about way as she had a money off coupon for £7 off if she spent £50. 
She didn't need enough groceries to spend £50 but my £30 would help her save some money. So it was agreed she would buy me 5 jars of Kenco Decafe  £4 x 5 = £20 and £3.61 x 3 = £10.83.(£30.83) I paid her £29 at the weekend slightly dearer than if I'd used my £3 off coupon but then  she managed to get £7 off the bill, so it was a win for her overall. 

So with my market purchases of apples/, strawberries for £4,  crisps and biscuits for £3. Further purchases in Asda(£10.74) and Iceland (£10.30)the budget so far this month comes to £57.04.  I have got to do 2 more £10 + shops in Iceland to get my £5 cashback (£77.??). The remaining £17.06 of the shopping will be purchased in Asda using the gift card I purchased at the beginning of the year (£95 as I want to claw back £5 from last month). 

There is plenty of meat and vegetables in the freezer so I will be relying on that more this month. I will definitely  be having a big batch cook this week. 

The salad bits in the garden are really starting to put on leaf. And that expensive rooted lettuce that I used last week is already re-sprouting at the centre since placing it in the greenhouse over the weekend. 

I still have about 4 kilo's potatoes and 1.5 kilo's of onions I bought when they were very cheap. There is still a large swede to use and  the red cabbage all perfectly fresh still thanks to the cool workshop.  Back soon, with news of where I've been! Bye for now. Tx 

Saturday, 28 April 2018


Ever heard the Rhyme ' If the oak before the ash, then we'll only have a splash, if the ash before the oak , then we'll surely have a soak'?

A lady farmer who comes to Weight Watchers quoted this rhyme to me last week.  Its been a dreadful year for her and her family so far.  Her son has a onion contract with a big supermarket that I won't mention...... and he's extremely worried the wintry  weather in March has ruined his crop. The soil on this coast has a high content of  clay and can cause problems with drainage and compacting, which is what the son was worried about. She said the onions had been pummelled into the ground. She  and her husband, on the other hand had planted later but were working every waking hour  to catch up with getting the ground ready for planting and then planting.  
Oak blossom

Ash tree blossom

So what does the rhyme mean and is there any truth in it? Apparently its all to do with the rooting levels of each tree.  The oak has far deeper roots then the ash. If the ash comes out before the oak then we'll have a wet summer.  If the oak is before the ash then it will be a dry summer. The farmer told me the ash blossom was on the trees but the oak wasn't and was seriously hoping the warm weather would rectify it.  There has been lots of studies online about this Rhyme and none conclusively say there is any truth is it at all.  But it made me think that in the days before  weather stations, satellites and telecommunications you would have looked to nature to provide some answers. I do hope her son manages to recover  his onion crop. However, this week's forecast looks dreadful with heavy rain due on  2-4 days so I'm thinking she could be right.  

Have you heard any old sayings that make you think? Or indeed believe in? 
Bye for now. Tx