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Friday, 21 October 2016

Sewing for Charity

I arranged to meet up with my sister on Wednesday morning for a cup of coffee and catchup. Her daughter joined us a little later with her 4 week old baby girl and I enjoyed lots of cuddles.   I always try to utilise my car travel so I called in at Morrison's and Lidl first to pick up some bits.  Knowing I only had £10.55 left I went for a savers tin of corned beef, ginger, the biggest individual garlic I could find in the basket and a handful of mushrooms instead of a punnet.  Morrison's spending: £2.45.  Lidl was £8.51 a slight overspend of 44p. But worth it as they had a number of baking bits on offer (sultanas, dark brown sugar, glace cherries). 

While we chatted my sister asked if I still had a sewing machine and I told her I did, in fact it was in the boot of the car ready to take to the 'hospice shop'.  I explained I was hoping to treat myself to a new one as it didn't look like I'd won the one in the competition I entered.  She asked if I would come to a 'Sanitary Towel Party' to sew 'sanitary ware' for Malawi.  A young local teacher had been out there and noticed that  teenage girls were missing out on their education as they did not attend school when they were menstruating. Women will sleep  on the floor or outside and will not leave their homes during 'their time of the month'.  Some use old rags, whilst others resort to the husk of a tree,  bits of bark or plastic.

The invitation asked everyone to bring old hand/bath towels, sewing paraphernalia  and £3  to help with  postage and packs of knickers to hold the sanitary towel during their period.  We were supplied with templates, some women chose to be the 'cutters', others sewed steadily by hand. Three other women had brought their machines which gave me the opportunity to have a nose at alternative makes.  The lady with the 'Singer' machine said it was a great machine £99 from Lidl. Although she said it had taken ages to get her hands on it as they seem to sell out straight away.  'You need to be unemployed or retired and turn up outside the shop the day the offer starts' she said.  Well as I'm both retired and unemployed as from tomorrow, so I may have to keep an eye out for that!  Over 50 women turned up to do this in the back bar of a pub, we worked steadily for 3 hours and a great time was had by all. 

The design is based on the winged type you see in  the shops today except everything is cotton and washable.  The winged sanitary towel has one end left open and the towel is inserted.  Two poppers are applied to the wings and they wrap around the gusset of the knickers. Simple but effective. I have brought another 40 or so to finish at home, so it looks like the hospice will have to wait a little longer to get my sewing machine.  Bye for now. Tx

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Doom & Gloom

Its official, interest rates are on the rise, last month saw the highest rise in 22 months to 1%.  Clothes and fuel are the cause of the rise. In addition, Unilever and Tesco's price rise argument last week brought the post Brexit effect on imported goods to the fore.  We are being advised that prices are on the way up, especially food.  Savings interest rates are abysmally small and pay rises are virtually non existent.  A few years ago I read a post by the money savings expert Martin Lewis who advocated that  people living on fixed incomes  stockpile goods while they are cheap. His argument was that the money saved on the purchases now was far more beneficial.  I don't suppose he was expecting people to fill their loft or garage with baked beans or toilet rolls.  What he was saying was to be mindful of the prices you pay for goods.  Be aware of price changes and other slights of hand like smaller pack sizes for the same price. Strike while the iron is hot.

I have decided to have my annual food budget in an savings account. I will use it to purchase goods that I use regularly when they are on offer.  I will also look to increase those savings by using any coupons I have.  I spoke about my prospective Sainsbury shop last week, I couldn't use my coupon until Sunday which worked well with visiting the Mother in Law in Colchester (where Sainsbury's is) and to deliver her holiday present......Traditional Madeira Cake.


We use both Nescafe Gold blend and Azera coffee, normal price £5 and £4 respectively but on offer for £4 and £3. We also have Benecol which is £3.50. My voucher was £6 off £30.

3 x Nescafe @ £4  = £12
2 x Azera  @ £3     = £6
1 Benecol @ £3     = £3
1 Anchor Lt  @ £3 = £3  (for Christmas baking)
2 x Oxo 24's @ £1.50  (normally £1.75)
Desiccated coconut  = £1.15
Mixed Spice             = £1.00
Apple Blackcurrant  = £1.00 (Pies for Mother in Law)  Total cost £30.15 - £6   = £24.15 BARGAIN

12 items purchased that's another 50p off each item
I used my Credit card for this purchase as this will be paid
 next week when I get my last pay packet.
I have enough Coffee for the next six months at least. I'm awaiting my next lot of coupons from Sainsburys and Tesco's then I'll go on line to see what gives me the best value for money. What I'm looking to do as from next month is utilise savings for example buy £30 worth of meat, supermarkets usually do 3packs  for £10 which already includes a saving.  I'm LOOKING TO INCREASE THIS SAVING  FURTHER BY USING A COUPON TOO. I will check Mysupermarket for the best offers and buy what suits accordingly. I'm also  on the look out for Aldi and Lidl coupons that normally appear in a newspaper on Thursdays in the run up to Christmas as I'm currently in need of baking ingredients.  I have more time on my hands now  to be able to bake which will include bread making from time to time too. As usual  I will fill the oven while its on.

£12.64 left in this months budget.  I spent £2.09 today on bread 66p, lettuce 43p and Rich Tea £1.  Budget left £10.55.Tomorrow I will need to buy milk and mushrooms. I have some cheese in the fridge that needs using up so I'll be making cheesy spaghetti or something similar which will be served with salad as I have tons of fresh toms to be eaten.  I'll cycle the 2 miles to Lidl and get some carrots, parsnips and onions while they're 29p.  I'll be stockpiling their apple offer on Thursday 79p Kilo as we eat a lot of apples. The savings and exercise will be beneficial!

While we were sitting in MIL's conservatory on Sunday a squirrel was busy bringing walnuts into the garden and burying them in her borders and pots.  He provided the inspiration for todays post.
 'stockpiling his food  for the future'  Ha ha. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Back soon. Take Care.  Tx

Monday, 17 October 2016

Out and About

WELCOME 3 New followers on here, I can't make out who your are since they've changed things on here.  Feel free to join in on my posts.  One thing I've learnt over the last two years is that there is a wealth of knowledge out there and it needs to be spread  shared!
Hubby's official working week is two days, Monday and Tuesday.  There is an agreement he will occasionally do an extra day to help with demand and/or holiday cover.  Since getting back off our holiday he has worked 3 days, the rest of the time we have been  out and about making great use of our time.  We know we have jobs in and around the house to finish but while the sun is shinning we wanted to enjoy it.  We have regularly driven or cycled a couple of miles to the Westley beach front in the local town and walked along the promenade for 2.9 miles to the town and back again. We have aimed to walk 5 miles a day and I'm pleased to report that as a result his blood pressure has lowered and his overall resting heartrate is down to 50.  
I love being near the sea

Despite being 9am the sun is low causing a silhouette.

Large freighters on the horizon heading for Felixstowe
probably carrying Christmas TUT!
We have also been on the look out  for cheap forms of entertainment, other than walking/cycling. My friend in Clacton had mentioned that her local cinema was very cheap so I googled it.  It costs £2.50 each to get in and that is the standard price! Yes we have to pay for petrol to get there as its 15 miles away but if we combine it with shopping and a general day out by the seaside its not expensive at all. There is a much larger range of shops there then in my local town so I have more opportunity to get bargains and use any coupons I might get.  I was expecting a 'flee pit' but it was fantastic inside with large spacious high backed leather seats. We went to see 'Girl on the Train' which is the first film in ages I've seen and I absolutely loved this suspense thriller.  We are waiting for the dates of the Tom Hanks film 'Miracle on the Hudson' regarding the plane that landed in the Hudson after a flock of Canadian Geese were sucked into the engines of the plane and everyone survived.  Apparently there was a massive enquiry because the authorities believed the Captain should have turned the plane around and landed it back at the airport.  Hero/Villain, the different points of view make this film great viewing for me and at £2.50 a seat, I'll be there.
Borrowed from the internet
There has been lots of talk on blogland about lifestyles, moving and future homes. We have two grown up daughters that have children  who live in much bigger towns in different directions from us. We are contemplating moving closer and perhaps if the right property or piece of land comes along we will......but I do love being by the sea. Do you have a preference? Town, city, rural or like me by the sea?
Back soon with a shopping and budget update. Bye for now. Tx

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Last Pay Packet

In 9 days time I will receive my last pay packet as an employed person and will enter the ranks of retirement and living on a reduced income.  Once  I have had my last pay slip and sorted my various bills and savings accounts, I'll be able to share with you the money I have saved over the last two years. 
The pension forecasts are in from both the Civil Service and my private pension so I am fully aware of what I will be living on in the future  £7478. Although my husband will contribute to the budget I have always worked out the running costs and the ability to afford them from my income.  Retirement is no different, I will pay the bills  and  hubby will pay for the  finer things in life as he has always done!
Once again I have put pen to paper, well....figures to spreadsheet to work out my outgoings, just as I did two years ago.  Its a very worthwhile thing to do because it brings home the reality of your finances.  I realised back then that there was precious little money for fun or incidentals, hence the reason I started putting all my spare cash away while I was earning good money.  Then came the task of living on my proposed pension and learning to make each pound go further.
The ones marked A & B are those that I have some autonomy over, I can chose to change supplier and look for a better offer or simply use less, or indeed get rid of it altogether. I do not have any control over my Council Tax and I have limited control over my water bill. I can use less water but I cannot go to another supplier as we are limited in Essex.  Charles Dickens would be pleased as my outgoings (£7419)are less than my income (£7478). (only just).  There will be annual changes/increases  and I will look for ways of keeping them within budget.
Despite my pension being paid in arrears I am contemplating putting the whole years pension in an account that pays interest and drawing down on it each month. The money would come from the lump sum I'm due to receive.  It would be very useful to have the food budget upfront as I'll have the money to stockpile special offers.  For example, Sainsbury's have Nescafe Gold Blend (£4), Azera coffee  (£3) and Benecol (£3) on offer at the moment.  I have a voucher for £6 off £30 which means I can get 4 Gold Blend, 2 Azera and 2 Benecol for £25 instead £31 or £35 full price (a £10 saving). I've also noticed the Christmas offers are appearing in the shops. I know many of them will increase in price as we get closer to Christmas.
Money left in the food kitty this month £21.49.  Spending £2.00 fruit veg market, Morrison's £3.75 & £3.10 Total: £8.85 Money left: £12.64.  I think  I will have to make use of the Sainsbury's offer and over spend on the food budget this month because its a no brainer. I'll be £10 better off in the long run, £10 that can be used to buy numerous things.

Thank you for all yesterdays comments regarding pensions, I will be returning to the subject again. 

Looks like a better start stockpiling Marmite ;0) Ha Ha.  Bye for now. Tx

Wednesday, 12 October 2016


This last week has been quite stressful because I've been sorting my small private pension and hubby's much larger one.  The overall worth of mine is roughly £9200  as a result of contracting out of SERPs in the 80's.  I didn't earn a great deal then as I only worked part time choosing to stay at home to look after the children.  I can take this pension at 60 because that WAS the retirement age for women before the goal posts were moved (Don't get me started).  Luckily my retirement pack arrived first from Royal London who bought our pensions from the Cooperative, our original supplier.  I had to complete a telephone interview and study various guides inside the mammoth envelope that arrived.    
Image result for pension wiseI read through everything and used an online guide that had tutorials regarding the different types of annuity. Moreover, any decisions you make are for the rest of your life! I noted that my pension had some underwritten guarantees that had to be honoured.  So I opted for 25%  tax free and a single life  annuity guaranteed  for 15 years. The top five providers could only offer a yearly return of £300 but because of the underwritten guarantee I was entitled to £503. So they have had to stump up £7092 to make sure I get my £41.29 a month. I know its not massive but every little helps.
So when I went through hubby's pack his pension was split into 2, one section had a guarantee and the other didn't.  At first they asked if hubby wanted the pension to be treated as a whole value. So we asked for one whole forecast and the other split. They have had to uplift his by £21000 to get the figure he was promised! RESULT as you never win when it comes to an annuity or insurance company. Furthermore the overall value was £130 a month more! I'm so pleased I have a Civil Service Pension whereby  this is all being sorted for me and there isn't the additional worry that the company you have invested your pension in folding taking your money with them.  Thank goodness you can take 25% in cash these days at least you've had something if the SHTF.
There are numerous campaigns on Social Media asking the government to reconsider their stand on women's pensions but it looks like its fallen on deaf  ears. I recently had a photo of a woman who had protested outside parliament with a  placard  saying ' I've paid in you pay out'.  Like lots of us she had worked all her life, had in excess of 35 years of contributions and nothing at the end of it.   I will never get a full state pension because of contracting out of SERP's and being shafted by my employer 'HM GOVT' who also contracted out of SERP's but didn't tell us! So the Civil Service pensions won't go as far as many anticipated.
What about all the women and men who physically can't do their jobs when they are in their 60's. What are your thoughts? Do you live on an annuity? Have you used the Govt Pension Forecast Website to see what you will receive? Its a bit of a faff to register but well worth the effort.  Sorry this is such a 'serious' post but its a serious subject.

Its been a quiet week with very little to report. We have had showers on and off and at long last the water butts are filling and the grass in greening up. The budget is holding up well as I've only been buying bread and milk. Figures tomorrow as I need to do a small shop today in anticipation of using the slow cooker over the weekend.  I've been going to the freezer every morning to get something out to utilise and some space is last.

Bye for now. Tx

Friday, 7 October 2016

Staying Warm & Catch up!

Sorry for not returning sooner but I've been a little under the weather the last couple of days, my back has played up and made me feel lousy. I probably overdid the gardening thing once I saw the weather forecast for the weekend, then again it may be the cold having an effect on my body.  I've resisted putting on the heating as yet and as long as my feet are toasty the rest of me seems ok.  So the thick fluffy socks are out and the thick fleece onesie is next on the agenda.  How do you stay warm?  

I forgot to mention that I managed to get the banking and accounts sorted on Monday evening in between helping hubby with the new tap. (I held it while he tightened it making sure the hot and cold water flexi hoses  were the right way round!). I had borrowed money from my Christmas account to buy the Euros for our holiday and I needed to pay it back.  As usual I empty the account of all excess money putting it into accounts that pay interest.  My regular saver pays 2% but limited to £500 a month and my ISA is 1.5%. I know the chancellor changed the way ISA's work.  Now you can withdraw from an ISA now and repay it without being penalised but I am a stickler for emptying the bank account except for the monthly outgoings. I only have one wage packet left which is only for 3 weeks before I my income reduces to pension level. Then I will be able to disclose just how much I have saved by living on my pension forecast for the last two years. 
Today I've been in the garden all day. Lots of tomatoes had ripened while we were away and despite clearing the courgette plant we returned to a giant one.  I didn't get my brother round to water as there wasn't a lot left to worry about. Only one casualty, one of the three fig cuttings that hubby had nurtured into young plants.

The carrots had dried out so I pulled a few to check and yes they're a little limp and skinny but it was a few seeds in a bucket and I will do it again over winter in the greenhouse as an experiment.   I've harvested the sweet potatoes that I grew in a box in the greenhouse, I'm really chuffed with the  results of the experiment, I will put them in the ground next time as the ones nearer the bottom of the box where bigger. The tray below is the very last of the  tomatoes from outside.  The cabbage white have completely eaten two of my cabbages despite having them covered.

Shopping this month: Total spend so far: £28.22 The overall food budget for this month is £50 so I have £21.78, yikes not a lot but its a short month. Whoops nearly forgot went into Morrison's and picked up two yellow sticker foods, a twin pack salad 20p and some Parkin cake at 9p.  The cake was sliced and frozen, we can have the occasional treat with custard. TOTAL SPEND £28.51 balance= £21.49


MADEIRA (Part 5)

Due to the lack of beaches the islanders have built Lido's around the coast that are flooded  with sea water.  They are cheap to use €1.50 and you can stay all day.

 We went right up into the mountains and everything was shrouded in cloud
 The trees in the mountains grow all sorts of other plants on them as they are constantly wet by cloud.

Cruise ships galore everyday a different one.
 The Queen Elizabeth above

Back with more soon. Tx




Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Utilising what I have and batch cooking

Despite now  being retired and having extra time I still believe batch cooking , it saves time, energy and ultimately money.  Having the oven on and filling it with various dishes utilises the energy being used. Furthermore its as easy to chop 3 onions as it is one, it saves time in the long run. So I spent the morning making various dishes. I used a large leek from the garden and the last of the onions harvested earlier this year. Older looking toms were place in boiling water skinned and chopped to go into curry, soup and chilli. One of the stored butternut squash was chopped and used in the soup and curry, as well as the giant courgette. 

2 x 2 portion corned beef hash dishes to served with salad
2 x 2 portion chicken and vegetable curry to served with rice
3 x 2 portion vegetable soup for lunches
2 x 2 portion chilli con carne

Toms ready for skinning

Salad ready for the corned beef hash
Sausage and mash with onion gravy, salmon salad  will also be on the menu. I also have a couple of legs of lamb to use and one will cooked up next week, hopefully it will stretch to 3 meals, roast and hotpot x 2. I've checked Lidl's offers for later this week and they've got onions, peppers and cucumbers for 29p (just as I predicted) so I'll stock up on the onions and peppers.

Roasted veg ready for the soup

A large fruit salad and lots of dishes cooling ready to store

Tomorrow is garden and greenhouse day. I'll finish picking bits and pieces and sort out the compost.  Bye for now. Tx

Madeira (part 4)

If there is a beach it tends to be very stony and have sharp black sand
And yes that is a lizard on the rock!

Lizards are everywhere I've never seen so many in one place before

We had to take the traditional ride down the mountain

Back soon. Tx