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Thursday, 15 March 2018

I thought it was SPRING so I cleaned!

Wednesday was beautiful, the sky was blue and the sun was super warm.  The conservatory was heating up quickly and my thoughts turned to spring.  

I put the first  clothes wash in the machine before stripping the bed ready for a second cycle. I sprayed the inside of the cooker with oven cleaner covering my mouth and nose with a cloth as it really aggravates my breathing if I don't. Mr Muscle is powerful stuff, it really  does save a lot of scrubbing and soaking, plus the tin lasts me for a couple of years. I'm really good at wiping around the oven regularly so that it doesn't end up as an industrial cleaning job.    The foam was left half an hour to do its stuff before I washed it off using boiling hot water.  Its especially good on the glass too. 

Next job was to give the windows inside a clean using my vinegar spray and newspaper. The outside ones will be done another day.  Windows are my pet hate! No sooner are they clean and they're dirty again!

I sprayed the shower cubicle and tiles leaving a coating on the glass to remove some of the lime scale film.  I had a shower an hour later and rinsed the glass before drying and buffing everything up. I removed the drain cover, pot and showerhead. The shower drain and pot was placed in a bowl of bleachy water. I  placed the showerhead in a plastic bag with some lime scale remover gel and massaged it around the holes. After half an hour it was all scrubbed, rinsed, dried and refitted. The toilets and basins were scrubbed. 
The washing was line dried while we turned and vacuumed the mattress before putting fresh bedlinen on it. All window sills were wiped and furniture polished.  Hubby hand brushed the stairs and vacuumed the entire house.  We did the ironing between us and everything smelt fresh and lovely.  Its surprising how the sunshine inspires me to clean, does it do the same for you? Can't wait until I can get out in the garden and start clearing, planting and tidying.   The spinach and lettuce I sowed weeks back are big enough to put in the greenhouse and I hope to be eating them by May.  Tomorrow I'm off to get some seed compost and the sowing will begin. Spring may have only lasted a day but a lot of cleaning was done. I hope the cold weather that's heading our way is just a flash in the pan, I'm getting fed up with it now. Back soon. Tx

Monday, 12 March 2018

What I did with £100

Thanks to sticking to my £100 food budget in December and January (22/12/17-21/1/18 & 22/1/18-21/2/18) instead of the £150 I would normally spend.  I had £100 in my savings purse.  Last month I booked 2 rooms a hotel in London (Holiday Inn Excel London) for one night £60  with breakfast included.  We were picked up by our friends at 9:30 on Thursday morning and made our way to East London.  We arrived at the hotel at 1 after stopping for a brunch costing £11.98 for 2 at Tesco's Gallion's Reach 1 mile from our hotel. I paid half the £14 for one days parking £7. Technically we shouldn't have been allowed in our room until 2pm but the receptionist said the rooms were ready so we quickly unpacked our bits and pieces before heading out to the underground.  Our friends wanted to visit West Ham's new ground  as he was a lifelong supporter having been born in West Ham.  The new ground is of course the 2012 Olympic Stadium at Stratford. After visiting the West Ham shop and having a walk around the Olympic park we headed into Westfield. I'm not a clothes shopping person but went with the flow. We eventually ended up on the food court floor were we had an evening meal at 7 o'clock.  After an 'OK' Chinese street food dish we headed back to our hotel were we had a drink in our rooms.  

£60.00  Hotel & breakfast
£ 7.00   Parking
£11.98  Tesco brunch
£ 9.80  (2 x £4.90) underground Thursday
£12.70 (1 day travel underground ticket) Hubby had to pay for his ticket. 
New West Ham Ground
Aquatics Centre

The Orbital Can you see the
40 second corkscrew Shute to the right.

I paid for as may things as possible  out of the £100 and I think I got excellent value for money from it. After breakfast on Friday morning we headed to Covent Garden and browsed around the shops.

There was a 5 piece band playing and they were brilliant, the atmosphere was lovely. We watched a photo shoot of a model wearing spring attire and looking very cold but smiling through adversity!

We walked down to the Thames passing Somerset House and along the embankment before heading up to Trafalgar Square.
We stopped for late lunch at a restaurant which was very nice. The sharing platter was:  2 mini pure beef burgers in a brioche bun, 2 boar meat sausages, 2 cod goujons, mushy peas, barbeque sauce and chips  for £14.98. After lunch we set off down Pall Mall towards Buckingham Palace stopping to have a look around the park.  There was a squirrel desperately trying to find the nuts he buried in the autumn.  He was frantically digging here, there and everywhere. 
We arrived at the Palace just in time to see the Changing of the Guard.  It was just starting to rain and the guards eventually retreated inside their sentry box to a round of applause from the crowd watching.  We walked to St James tube and went to West Ham were our friend had a walk around his childhood stomping ground.  

We headed back to the hotel tea time to pick up the car and make our way home. It was a great trip for a bargain price. 
I celebrated Mothers day on Saturday with Afternoon Tea at the Cookhouse in Ipswich with both daughters.  It was lovely and I'm so pleased I didn't eat anything before hand.  We sat chatting for almost 3 hours and  I still had to bring a doggy bag away with me as there was far too much. I still have a piece of chocolate cake and carrot cake sitting in the fridge.  I hope you all you mums had a wonderful day. Back soon. Tx

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

4) Making Food Go Further.

Stretching food in particularly meat  can help you save money. I believe we eat far more meat these days then ever before, especially the more expensive cuts of meat. I can remember learning to cook  neck of lamb, breast of lamb, beef shin and all kinds of liver in school home economics. I look to serve 100g of meat protein per person for our main meal. As I don't like cheap mince or fatty mince  I look for ways of making my 5% lean steak mince go further.  Green lentils and beans are great additions because they too are protein. Vegetables are another way of making that meat go further. I try to have 2 - 3 meat free meals a week, when I use eggs, fish or pulses/legumes as an alternative. The weightwatchers Moroccan Cottage pie made with lentils is absolutely lovely. And my favourite meal of all time is egg, chips and beans. ( I know I'm cheap)

My ethos is 'make food go further without losing good nutritional value'. When I buy a chicken I  use as much as possible. The carcass is stripped once cooked, the meat sorted into portions, bones boiled for stock, the fat and skin stored for roasting vegetables.
If you haven't got a slow cooker then you're missing  out on a best friend that saves you money.  A £3 round of gammon can provide 4 delicious meals for 2 people from one pot (Bonfire Stew). Soak gammon in water overnight, I use unsmoked, rinse and put in crock pot with a diced onion, 2 sticks of celery sliced, 3 medium carrots sliced and 2 crushed cloves of garlic.  Add one tin of chopped tomatoes,  one tin of baked beans, a  teaspoon of smoked paprika and a vegetable stock cube. Add boiling water so everything is covered. Don't season yet as some gammon can be salty. Cook on high for 5 hours, remove the gammon and shred using two folks and put it back into the pot for another hour on low. Do a taste test, does it need seasoning, soy sauce, tomato puree or a dash of Worcester sauce.  Sometimes all I need to add is a  few chicken gravy granules  to thicken before serving it with  mash potato and greens. Overall cost 54p per serving. There  are hundreds of recipes on YouTube using cheaper cuts of meat yet producing the most delicious meals. The ideas are mind blowing to say the least.  
Sue over at the blog A Challenging Year, regularly sets herself strict goals in order to save money.  The current living on rations one shows how to you can make meals from very little just as people did during the war.  Take a look it's full of ideas.

A big thank you Sue my little book arrived. We hadn't had post for almost a week. I will definitely be making some of those recipes. Well that's al the money saving, frugal ideas posts.  Back to normal soon. Tx 

Saturday, 3 March 2018

2) Reducing Grocery Bills

Saving money everyday has become second nature to me. Lots of the things I do, I do without thinking, they are an automatic response. For example when I go to buy a cabbage and the price is each not by weight I automatically  look for the biggest/heaviest/densest. I naturally lightly squeeze a net of onions or bag of apples to make sure there isn't a soft one in it that may have affected the others. I also always buy the longest dates on dairy which are normally at the back of the shelf  although I'm not a strict sell by date person, it just gives me an extended period in which to use them.  I never understand why some foods like butternut squash have a date on them.  The Prairie Homesteaders' of yesteryear would keep them all winter as a valuable source of food and I buy them in bulk when they are on offer October time, keeping them in my outside workshop for most of the winter.  I still meal plan and have a strict shopping list, I will only veer away from this if I see a bargain. Shopping discipline and putting products  away with thought has been the key to real savings in my house. The importance of correctly sorting and storing your shopping will reduce waste and save you money.

For example, we don't eat huge amounts of bread so a loaf is split into 3,  2 parts go in the freezer.  I buy big packs of meat as its normally cheaper and I'll split them into 'our' portion sizes and freeze straight away, only keeping out what will be used soon. If I'm going to batch cook I can get multiple portions out and they defrost quicker. Buying larger packs of cereal, biscuits can be cheaper but make sure you seal them  properly so they don't go soft. Check the shelves or do the maths to work out which packs are cheaper. If you carry a mobile phone you have a calculator at your fingertips, make your money work for you. I always buy large packs of rice, sugar and pasta. They are sealed with a clip and double bagged to keep them fresh. Remove fresh produce  from plastic bags that may cause sweating and mould to form. I store lots of fruit and veg in my workshop as its dry and cool. Let common sense prevail, smell something, taste it if necessary before  you decide it needs to be thrown away.  My waste is almost zero. Have a bottom of the fridge meal  regularly were you use up those odds and ends to make a soup or casserole.  You'll be surprised what you can throw in a pot to make a hot delicious low cost meal. My summer glut of cucumbers made guest appearances in all sorts of meals.

I use the Mysupermarket app to checkout food prices, especially of the more expensive purchases which can vary a great deal from supermarket to supermarket especially coffee. I buy extra when its on special and hopefully have a coupon that makes it cheaper again. Don't be loyal to any one supermarket shop around. I have signed up to lots of supermarkets online and they regularly send me coupons. A recent £8 off £40 from Sainsbury's was a great offer.  Check your freezer and cupboards regularly and use the contents to make a meal plan for the week,  this will form the basis of a no waste shopping list because you won't be buying more than you need.  You can be flexible and move planned meals  around according to your fancies and you will find its a huge help.  Cooking from scratch is much better than processed food and it will work out much cheaper and healthier for you.  I am a massive fan of batch cooking making healthy meals in bulk that can be frozen for another day.  We have lived on a variety of great food from my freezer for a whole week before now. Take a look at Jack Monroe's web site.  More savings tips shortly. Tx

Friday, 2 March 2018

1) Knowledge is Power

This post is one of 4: 1) Knowledge is Power, 2) Reducing Grocery Bills 3)Staying in Control & Making Money 4) Making Food Go Further. They  are my viewpoint on reducing spending and learning to live on less. Some people are happy being Frugal to the extreme while others prefer to do it to a lesser degree.  Its personal choice.  Like many bloggers on here you may choose to set yourself No spend days/months or other challenges to help the purse strings. Anyway here goes........

It never ceases to amaze me how many people do not know how much they spend on household bills or in their words 'where their money goes each month'. I believe this is because we have lost touch with, wonga! Cards are used for everything and most accounts are paperless so for those who bury their financial heads in the sand, the fist time  they know there is a problem is when the card is declined.  The old saying 'forewarned is forearmed' is very true...know thine enemy! Get yourself a notebook and write down all your outgoings on one page and incomings on another. Check your bank/credit-card statements for direct debits, do you know what they are for? Are you paying for something  you no longer have like a gym membership you haven't been to in years. My friend was paying insurance for a motorbike he sold 9 months earlier. With automatic renewals its easy to get caught out.  Make sure you include Birthdays, Christmas, entertainment and vacations  on your outgoings list. BASIC MATHS...Do you have enough money coming in to pay for what's going out. NO.....then you need to find where you can make savings. What can you give up altogether? Eating out, trips to the cinema, extravagant TV packages, holidays, gym membership, designer get the picture.  

As Martin Lewis says get rid of over drafts, loans, credit cards and your mortgage as soon as possible because they are costing you interest. We overpaid our mortgage and have lived mortgage free for 11 years.  My credit card is always interest free on purchases for the longest period I can get, great for emergencies at no extra cost. 

There are very few areas of household expenditure where we have autonomy and  small tweaks can make big savings.  We can't argue with the council when they tell us what the council tax is going to be each year but do check if you are entitled to a reduction. Each Council publishes their 'reduction' criteria online.  The energy suppliers dictate what we pay for gas and electric but you can use online apps to see if  a better deal is available. Some savings are in the hundreds. Knowing your  yearly usage and current tarriff  will yield a more accurate result from these 'switch' sites. Like many of you I have reduced my consumption of gas and electricity as much as practicable, turning off items instead of having them on standby and buying A rated appliances.    The same with water, there is a limit to how much you can reduce your water consumption because our homes simply weren't designed to harvest rainwater in large quantities. But you can get water butts quite cheap if you shop around. Be  economical with water, fit water saving devices throughout the house and collect as much rainwater as you can for gardens, outside cleaning etc.   Water companies give away free water saving devices for taps and showers, check your supplier or the 'Save water save money' website. 

Is your home insulated? There are lots of free schemes out there contact them, again the best place to look is online. Place foil behind radiators, close curtains to keep the heat indoors. Buy thermal liners  or charity shop curtains to line thin curtains.   Use old towels rolled into a sausage shape held with elastic bands draught excluders.  

I regularly contact my telephone/mobile and TV supplier to make sure I'm on the best deal or its no deal.  Loyalty doesn't pay and if you don't ask you wont get....simple! Don't be afraid to shop around, vote with your feet if necessary and change supplier. A lot of the faff  has been removed from these processes now as a result of  government intervention and you'll be surprised how they will want to keep your business. Are you paying for things you don't use? TV channels, mobile data, overlapping insurances. My sister has just realised she's been paying for the kids channel on Sky unnecessarily. 

Like lots of newly weds in the 70's cash was the currency. Your wages were given to you in a little brown envelope and you only had a bank account because lots of mortgage companies insisted on it. You paid cash into your bank account to pay the mortgage. I know crazy!

Once you opened that envelope you split the money into little piles to pay the various household bills. Then and only then did you dare dream of treating yourself to anything, even food some weeks. Tins like the one here  were commonplace but I used envelopes and despite having  more cash available to me now I still stick by this method by placing money in different online accounts for  various reasons. And  I use cash because you can see it disappearing, its real, its tangible.  Plastic is too elastic.

I get my civil service pension on the 22nd of the month, the first thing I do is pay my council tax bill £141 over the phone using a free phone number.  I don't pay by direct debit anymore because it took me 4 months to get some money back off them as they kept forgetting to put me 'on the cheque run'. I have worked out what I need in various accounts to cover all my bills. I walk to the Coop and pay in £40 to my Christmas account  along with the 2 free council tax months£480+ £282=  £762.  This is such a godsend at Christmas.

If you are coming up to retirement practice living on that reduced income figure. Make the changes needed sooner not later. I lived on my forecast pension for over 2 years  prior to retiring and it certainly honed my money saving skills that had taken a bit of a back seat while we enjoyed a great income, no mortgage,  no children lifestyle. Banking every penny I didn't spend of my wages meant I had over £25k in an account by the time I retired.

Yes I do have access to other income from the rental property  we own and hubby still works two days a week but if we only had our untaxed private pensions to live on we would be OK. Hubbies pensions would still allow us one good holiday each year and a few other treats.  We could only have one car but we would be financially stable.

 Being frugal allows us to treat ourselves.  We currently go abroad at least twice a year and holiday in the UK 2-3 times too. We aren't touching our savings  or rental income at present because we envisage having to move at some point in the future, hubbies recent illness made us realise we are quite isolated as far as family here.   If we move back to Colchester where hubby spent most of his childhood and where our eldest daughter and his mother lives we would probably have to find another £100k to live there. Well that's the starting point today. Knowing your financial situation will give you the power to deal with it.  Knowledge really is power. Tomorrow, reducing grocery bills, as this is the area we have the most autonomy over. Bye for now. Tx 

Thursday, 1 March 2018

3) Staying in Control & Making Money

Just. been told this has vanished going to repost in the hope you can see it. Thanks Kim.  

Staying in control of your spending is paramount. I know it may feel alien to start with but you will notice it getting easier.  Like so many people who start a diet being too restrictive can force a rebellion and eventual failure.  Variety is the spice of life. Start by changing little things you do. If you normally grab sandwiches and a coffee make your own, at least 3 times a week. Packed lunches can be  sandwiches, pasta, rice, wraps and flat breads to name a few. Taking coffee/tea/juice from home can save a fortune. One of our Christmas presents this year was a food Thermos for when we are out and about. 

Make your own flapjacks, biscuits and cakes they will probably  work out cheaper for a much healthier product.  I do have to hide some of my bakes because hubby would hog the lot given the chance. Use local markets they are often cheaper than  budget supermarkets.

Don't be too proud to try a downshift in products, I've gone over to supermarket laundry liquid, toilet roll, pasta and rice.  I always bought Heinz baked beans, I now prefer  Branston  for eating (less sweet) as in Beans on Toast, and Lidl for adding to cooking chlli, cottage pie etc.   Reduce the number of products you use.  Do you really need floor cleaner, wall cleaner, worktop cleaner. A good multipurpose cleaner will do it all. I use bleach for all sorts of things buying the biggest bottles I can find and decanting into smaller bottles. Buying big helps the environment too as there is less packaging to deal with. Living in a hard water area means I need a limescale remover from time to time. Lidl has a good one and I use white vinegar too which also cleans my windows.  My favourite polish is Wood Silk non silicone polish @£1.50 a tin (just found it for £1.29 in Home Bargains).  Not only does it polish all my oak furniture, it shines my leather sofas and polishes the stainless steel hob to perfection. I put the cloth in a plastic bag and use it for buffing in between  my 'full polish' regime. I purchase 900ml bottles of shampoo which is used as shampoo, shower gel and to refill soap pumps. I also have a bar of soap and a scrunchy in the shower for a great invigorating scrub. Keep things simple. 

Raise additional cash by selling unwanted items through local selling pages. Don't be silly with prices, if you don't want the item any more getting something for it is better than nothing.   Books and CD's can be boxed up and sent off free of charge to companies like Ziffit. Their downloadable reader will give you an exact price for your unwanted goods. Carboot sales are good for people who want a serious declutter. Good presentation is essential. A stall that looks like a jumble sale will elicit silly offers. Price your goods, lots of people don't like asking. Have plenty of change and don't be put off by the professional car booters who will try to get goods out of your car the minute you arrive and who will barter to the point of being rude.  My policy for unwanted goods is, sell, donate, dump. 

Is your partner a non tax payer? Get them to go online and apply for the married persons allowance which gives you an extra £200+ each year and can be backdated 3 years.  Check out other tax breaks to see if you're entitled.

Seeking out  bargains in order to reduce living costs further is a hobby now. I always look for a discount code before I buy anything online.  Paypal recently offered  £5 off any purchase so I ordered XL printer ink paid through Paypal and received the discount (£28.32 instead of £33.32). The old ones were sent away to raise money for the RSPCA.

I love beating the supermarkets who have spent thousands psychologically profiling customers, rigging their shops in such a way that we buy expensive branded products  is now a bit of a game. Finding yellow sticker bargains is always a bonus. Im nowhere as lucky as  Marlene at Simple Living who is very fortunate with her finds. I'm often green with envy after her posts ;0).
I  don't buy for the sake of it, buy one get one free is only good if you use them.  I could probably do far more but I'm comfortable with my lifestyle, we eat healthily, we exercise and enjoy ourselves. So what can you add to this?  Bye for now Tx

PS.  Thank goodness that horrid white stuff has gone. Roll on Spring. 

They got it wrong

Well the weather people got it wrong.  Today was meant to be a snow free day but it hasn't stopped snowing.  The wind  increased overnight causing the dry powdery snow to drift, meaning the 200 lorries off the overnight boat from Holland are stuck on the bypass and town roads.  Nothing is coming in and nothing appears to be leaving. My Weightwatchers class has been cancelled, the church hall would have been flipping freezing anyway so I'm quite pleased about that. How is it near you? Anyway, enough said about this horrid stuff.

Late Monday afternoon I went into Asda,  fully expecting it to be out of milk and bread by 16:20.  The local Facebook page was full of posts regarding panic buying but I was pleasantly surprised.   I spent £7.14 less the 25p coupon £6.89 and I got some yellow sticker bits. 2 loaves of Danish White bread for 32p instead of 85p and 500g Turkey Mince for 94p instead of £2.25. Total spend so far £57.06.

While rooting around the freezer looking for bits to use up I came across a bag of cooked meat.  I identified it as pork which was quite fatty.  Once defrosted I trimmed the meat giving the fat to the hungry birds.  I sliced the meat  and layered it up with lots of vegetables before seasoning and adding a jar of black-bean sauce. It was slow cooked for 5 hours and I served it with basmati rice. Absolutely delicious and enough for another day. 

I swapped my menu around a little this week and last night we had the corned beef hash I made on Sunday. I heat it in the microwave for 5 minutes before placing it in a very hot oven to crisp up the top.  Once again knowing the oven was going to be on and placating hubbies moans because I wouldn't let him buy Hot Crossed Buns so I attempted to make them.  

First problem, I didn't have strong white flour but carried on regardless using plain white flour.  Like bread the dough has  to be left to prove,  then be knocked back, shape and prove again before baking. I didn't do the cross bit because I don't have a nozzle to pipe it on top. But I will get one from my daughter who has loads for next time.  I used two teaspoons of mixed spice but it wasn't  spicy enough. for me.  It definitely needed cinnamon as well as the mixed spice. Although this was a trial and error recipe they weren't bad.  I made them small so we can have one with our mid morning or afternoon coffee. I put 9 in the freezer because the mix made 19 42g buns. Have you ever made them? 

Tomorrow I will be doing a post about getting ' finances in order'  because I have been asked to.  One anonymous reader is in the run up to retirement at 60 but is left wondering what living on a reduced income is like.   Can she take precautions before it happens? can she make her money go further?.  Another person has asked how to reduce spending, so all you brilliant frugal bloggers please read it and contribute with your tips too, we can all learn from it.  Bye for now. Tx