Google+ Followers

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Doing the Downshift Challenge


Thank you all for the comments on my recent post.  It was a comment from Sol that has prompted this post. He says '  I hate buying things like toilet paper and washing powder, they are silly prices to me.' 

Take the Downshift Challenge.

The theory is simple:
Try dropping one brand level on everything. Then see if you can tell the difference. If not, stick with the cheaper one.

Supermarkets separate their products into different ranges. You have the Premium branded products like Mcvities, Kellogs, Andrex etc You also have Supermarket own brand with different packaging (Savers/Basic/Simply, Luxury, The Best). The level of cost increases through the range. 

Well I'm pleased to report that over the last few years I have tried lots of  own brands, unknown brands as a way of reducing my grocery bill.

One firm favourite of mine is the Lidl biological laundry gel called Formil. I only buy this when its on offer for 99p and it does 21 washes which equates to just under 5p a wash. It is on their weekend offer quite a few times each year so I buy  2-3 bottles at a time. I'm looking for a Premium Brand replacement   fabric conditioner  that smells good.  Any one have a suggestion? 

I haven't bought  a toilet roll for 9 months because my sister in law kindly brought me loads as a thank you when they came to stay in March. Her cousin works in a toilet roll factory in Wales and they get so much as a perk, plus they can purchase additional stock at a much reduced price. I got all Tesco Luxury soft white. I had always used the Premium brands Velvet or Andrex up until this point so this was my first try of the cheaper stuff and if I'm completely honest it was quite as soft but hubby didn't even notice any difference. Although I will probably stick with Supermarket own brands from now on I thought I'd try Lidl toilet roll their very basic one.  It has 400 sheets per roll but is smaller, its only 2 ply and not as soft. 



I think I may be back to the drawing board on this one! But if you don't try you will never know. I've heard that Nicky toilet roll is good so that be another I buy to try. 

A few other brands I've dropped:
Heinz baked beans    replaced  with Branston Baked Beans
Heinz Salad Cream replaced with  Lidl Kania/Batts , in fact the whole range are brilliant Mayonaisse, ketchup, mustard etc.
Silver spoon sugar  replaced with ANY Cheaper sugar. To be completely honest I am now more open to trying different brands as I am no longer loyal to any one Supermarket. The Crownfield cereals in Lidl are very good especially the Malt Wheaties and Fruit Wheats.

What Premium brand products have you replaced with a cheaper version? 
What Premium brand products could you not live without? 

Coffee is important to me and I alternate my coffee between the premium brands Kenco Rich, Nescafe Gold and Nescafe Azera which all cost £5-6+ 200g.  However I stockpile when its on offer and I'm proud to say I haven't paid full price for a jar in over 2 years! I hope all your Christmas plans are coming together. Its still very cold out there so stay warm and stay safe. Bye for now. Tx




Monday, 11 December 2017

Spending Habits Changing

I've noticed a distinct change in my shopping habits of late.  I know some of it is due to the fact that my freezers and cupboards have been full of food and I have only needed to buy items necessary to utilise what I've already had. But doing that has made me realise I can spend less and get more.  I know I'm strong enough to go into a shop and within reason only buy what I went in there for.  This sort of shopping wouldn't work for everyone but I am time rich now and don't mind walking or cycling to the shops. I will still make use of supermarket vouchers but as always..... only when they buy the most for the least. 

Next year I will start the year by putting £624.00 on an Asda grocery  card  costing me  £599.04 which is a 4% saving.  I can get this through hubbies employee work portal and equates to me spending £12 a week.  I will also make use of Lidl offers and my local market bringing my weekly spending to £25. I will have a safety net of £40 each month if there happens to be anything left I will put it in a savings tin for Christmas Food.   Now the local market can be a bit hit and miss but the stalls are getting better and better.  I recently spent £10.40 on this:-




9 packs of Hartleys sugar free jelly Retail £1 each  cost £3 
                1 bag of Shortbread fingers the best I've tasted cost £1
                2 packs Wagon Wheels cost £1
                3 packs of (8 x 3 = 24) Frazzels cost £2
                1 pack chocolate decorations £1
                1 pack (3) Franzipans    cost 20p (slightly out of date)
                3 mini cheeses Lovely taste cost £1         
                1 pack (12) coconut jam  biscuits cost 20p  (slightly out of date) 
                  Total cost £9.40






Two punnets of strawberries  £1  Bargain and we have eaten half fresh with yoghurt.  The softer ones went into a couple of smoothies and I prepared the rest for the freezer. 

I also made use of my Iceland Managers weekly deal.  I receive an email every week with a 'very special offer' and they normally are but of course they may not suit my lifestyle. 

Fox's Fabulously Biscuit selection £2.50 instead of £4 so a real  bargain and just right for that afternoon cuppa during the Christmas holidays!

I used my £5 Iceland Christmas bonus to buy Pork Shoulder (£3.99) and Chicken nuggets (£2) for boxing day. Cost 99p (all logged in my budget).  

My digital energy display unit will be plugged back in after Christmas and I will monitor our usage  closer.  If Santa doesn't bring me the propagator heat pad I've asked for I will get one ready to start my seeds in March. I would like to increase my growing again this year, especially the fruit side if possible. I actually got round to pulling up the last of the beetroot and carrots.  I have popped them in the greenhouse for the time being and use them over the next fortnight.   


Sunday, 10 December 2017

Quickly Saving Money

Just a quick one.  Are you buying beauty products for the family?  I buy my friends Olay  as the range is quite extensive.  We are all ladies of a particular age who moisturise regularly to keep those dreaded lines at bay.

  • Supersavvyme  a website with printable coupon.

  • Note products you are interested in.

  • Mysupermarket a website that compares prices.

  • Look up Olay moisturiser, click and compare.


  • In this case the coupon is for Asda and Asda is by far the cheapest.

  • Print coupon.

  • Go to Shop and save on the lowest price.........Bargain. 


Sorry about the quality of the photos but they're off my computer screen. Asda have Olay for £6  £4 cheaper than Morrrisons, Boots and Sainsbury's.  So with your coupon you will only pay £5 an overall saving of £5. Let your fingers do the walking, yes its the old Yellow Pages slogan but just as valuable today.  Supersavvyme do lots of printable coupons and they are not always Supermarket specific, so its always advisable to use Mysupermarket to see who has that product on offer and  therefore make a further saving.  


I've just printed this one for Anchor butter 50p off, I will use it against a 1kg pack at Morrison's or Tesco if I'm near one as its £5, 98p cheaper than Sainsbury's and Asda.  

Bye for now. Tx



Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Keeping Tabs on Spending

Its so easy to part with money this time of year.  I always plan for Christmas after all its the same day every year and shouldn't therefore be a surprise to anyone.  The money for the gift budget is saved monthly in the Coop. The money used for the additional food bought for the Christmas period which includes some gifts like wine or chocolates comes out of my normal food budget.  Its really handy having a freezer full of food to subsidise my monthly budget this time of year. 

October 22nd - November 21st


On the 12th November I reported my spending thus far as £62.57, but later that afternoon I printed a New Covent Garden £1 coupon and paid nothing for some veg soup.But I did pick up a bag of Yorkshire puddings on offer for 50p. I spent £18.52 in Iceland (Wales). I did a bit of a Christmas shop in Morrison's (Cheese, peanuts, cola and spray cream )and used my 3x £5 vouchers Spend: £2.57. Another small shop in Morrison's £6 and Lidl £2.26 (Kitchen roll offer 99p and hubbies fish) I also bought milk from the One Stop 99p.  I made use of a Tesco's offer and bought 6 bottles of Blossom Hill Zinfandel which is normally £9 a bottle. Tesco had it for £8.50 plus 25% off 6 and I had a £1 voucher. £37.25(£6.20 a bottle bargain)  That's 3 presents sorted and some for me.Total Spend  for month £131.25.

November 22nd - To Present

Iceland £10.50, Iceland £10.14 (I've qualified for £5 cash back)  Lidl £16.04 , Morrison's £6.05, Romford Market £1.50 One stop Milk £1, Iceland 99p (used the £5), Iceland £3.29, Lidl £4.04, Friday Market £10.40 Tesco £18.05 (£2 coupon used) Total Spend so far £84.00 Lots of small shops to compliment what I already have in the freezer or cupboards and/or to make use of offers. Plus I've topped up a few presents small chocolate items. Its just milk and possibly bread needed this week.  I'll check out  and table crackers but I'm waiting until Christmas Eve for them to see if they're reduced. I really don't want to go over £100 before 21st. 

Since coming back off my travels I have reacquainted myself with the contents of my freezers and cupboards, and I am only purchasing food items that enable me to make use of what I have. Although while Christmas shopping in Romford  I did buy a large bag of potatoes and a large bag of pointed peppers for £1.50,  the stalls were packing away and it was such a bargain.  I've used some of the peppers to make chilli beef, bolognaise, bonfire stew and pizza this week.  The rest I chopped and  froze for use another time.
I'm constantly thinking about Christmas at the moment and I have a big tick list. Some of my Christmas money saved will be given as cash. The small cards I made up earlier this year using Christmas card toppers I'd cannibalised from cards received have come in handy as money holders. The new noted fit nicely folded inside.


I've also made up a number of jam and pickle hampers ready for friends and family. 


We are going to make some Florentines this year to give away instead of mini Christmas cakes, although I might still make a couple of mini Dundee cakes my absolute favourite.  Of course I'll post what ever I do.  What are you making to give this year? Bye for now. Tx






Monday, 4 December 2017

Have you heard the news? & Black Friday

My inspiration for sorting my life out and changing the way I was living has disappeared. Frugal Queen who gave me the confidence to experiment living on my pension prior to retirement has left the building! Her blog has gone, so has her Facebook page and many  other types of media accounts.  There has  been no explanation which is slightly concerning. I do hope all is well with her and I thank her for those wise words, straightforward talking and information.  You provided a great service and I learnt loads. Thank you.

I know I'm a little late with my Black Friday post but better late than never.  Firstly I'm not one to stand overnight in the freezing cold wanting to purchase a television at some extra low price.  I'm a person who has a look through the online deals that came into my inbox to see if any are of benefit to me.  As mentioned in an earlier post I am still watching the pennies and I've gradually been putting Christmas food in my shopping basket so I don't take a hit at Christmas.  My £16.04 shop in Lidl logged in my budget took place on Black Friday when they had their large bags of hand cooked crisps at 39p (normally 75p) so I bought 3 packets. I also bought their crackers for cheese that are lovely, some more soft cheese, frozen button sprouts and a bottle of Chardonnay £2.99. Small savings but they all add up. Looking after the pennies helps those pounds add up!

We set off for Romford early hours of Saturday (25th)with friends to do the last of our Christmas shopping.  We travelled in their car and shared the price of petrol and parking.  The parking ticket pay machine was out of order when we returned and the barrier was in the upright position so we got a freebie! I knew I wanted some bits in H&M so I down loaded their app which meant I could claim 20% off my purchase.  Luckily I was able to make use of another in-store offer which meant my bill was reduced from £31.96 to £20.78. 

I bought a jumper for myself from M&S (£16) and some great half price offers in Superdrug for my daughters. As we headed back to the car the market was packing up and I picked up a large bag of potatoes and large bag of pointed peppers for £1.50.

Our luck continued when my friend mentioned she had bought some outdoor lights in Wilko that were not only battery operated but had a timer too. The string of 50 lights were said to last 30 days and were both for indoor and outdoor use. The 600 mains lights set she had also purchased the week before for £30 was down to £20 so I got one set and two of the battery timer ones @ £4 each. I thought it was about time I got rid of a couple of old bulb sets I still had that had dodgy glass bulbs. The discount paid for 3 selection boxes,  half of another set of lights and 2 doggy treat bags for these two! (My daughter's dogs)
Trying on their Christmas jumpers.
Give a dog a bed and he sleeps on the floor!

Blogland does seem  very quiet at the moment and you do feel like you are repeating yourself talking about your life and things you get up to. You also have the added hassle of Foreign trolls. But I shall continue until I feel otherwise. Bye for now. Tx





Monday, 27 November 2017

Getting back to reality

Well we've been home over two weeks now and time is flying.  We left my friends home in Scarborough late afternoon on Friday 10th November.  We had already made the decision that we wouldn't stop in Hull as originally planned but carry on home.  Our youngest daughter had contacted us whilst we were away and was having tests for diabetes. She had gestational diabetes with both pregnancies and had to be put on insulin but her sugar levels were high again and this time she isn't pregnant! Although lots of the medical profession believe diabetes isn't hereditary it certainly seems to be in our family.  My husband and his brother both became insulin dependant diabetics within 9 months of each other over 37 years ago. She's a smart cookie and I'm sure she will cope, she has before.

We travelled 1300 miles, driving through some of the most beautiful countryside and coastline you could wish to see. The trip cost us £800 including hotels, cottage rental, food/meals, diesel and entrance fees.  And yes we could have got a holiday abroad for that price but we loved every minute of our UK trip. We both came home with something to remember from our trip, the dive helmet from North Wales and my Whitby Jet necklace  or black pearl as its also referred to. 

The bottom stone is Jet, the top tiny stone is amber.



Hubby wants to put a light inside this.

£800 is a lot of money but with all my scrimping and saving throughout the year we manage to  holiday regularly.  All the hotels were researched to make sure they were close to amenities, had free parking and refreshments.  We didn't always have breakfast at the hotel we often went to a local cafĂ©, or supermarket were prices are reasonable. All tickets were purchased on line,  in advance with concessions applied to make sure we got the best price.

Since arriving home I have been looking after my middle grandson who had a small operation  10 days ago and had to be off school for a week.  I had him two days and he was fine.  He spent his time doing homework set by his class teacher and we went for a walk every day so that he got some exercise.  Our daughter is having lots of tests done to check whether the sugar have caused any damage to her eyes, kidneys and liver. Hubby has also had some results back from the  blood tests he had regarding arthritis and the MRI earlier this year. Everything is normal, thank heavens so I'm not sure what happens next.


Last Thursday I sorted through my Birthday/Christmas cupboard and made a start on my gift shopping list. I still have a few items that I got in the Boots sale last Christmas and there's the items purchased in London in October. There is a  'would like' list from the family which makes my life easier. I've been saving with the Coop since January and I went down and collected the £720 ready to spend.
 

Friday afternoon I enhanced some cheap bags using my Christmas tree cut outs.  (eBay 10 bags £3). 


I almost forgot, sitting in the post box waiting for my return was my lovely gift from Dawn  @ Crafting in my log cabin in Wales & Being self sufficient in Wales. The gold Christmas tree is a result of a video demonstration on her embroidery machine I had requested.  Thank you Dawn, you are very kind. Did you emboss the card yourself?  The Christmas Tree detail is amazing. 

I must get my card making things out  and do some more, as I do find it very relaxing.  I have asked Santa for a new die for my Big Shot, after all I have been good. Bye for now. Tx
















Last Leg Yorkshire

Sorry for my absence but I've been sorting things for Christmas (more on that soon) and I'm full off cold! I never get colds so this one has hit me hard. I don't get the whole runny nose bit I just get the sore throat and continual sneezing! 

On Thursday 9th November we packed the car and headed to Whitby Bay.  Once again we travelled through miles and miles of beautiful country side.  I particularly loved the bracken filled miles of moorland as we got closer to the coast.  I had booked a Marsden hotel called The Penny Hedge great value for money at £59 plus full breakfast for 2.  The hotel and restaurant was built along the same lines as a Premier Inn. However,  this was very new and really catered for the modern traveller with lots of sockets for electrical equipment, free WiFi, open wardrobes, toiletries and refreshments. The receptionist asked us if we wanted to book for dinner as Thursdays was their busy night. She then went on to say Thursdays special was Steak (Sirloin or Rump)  chips, peas, mushroom  & tomato, and a full bottle of Hardy's wine for £22 So we booked! (THIS IS NOT AN ADVERT just great value) 

Sitting at the table chatting, hubby said why don't you give your friend the heads up that we are in the area. I always feel awful turning up on people but I did message  her saying 'No pressure but I'm in Whitby' within seconds my phone sounded and she said she would love to see us and she would do late lunch to suit our plans. So it was agreed we would call in on her the following afternoon. The next morning we went into Whitby, once again we were blessed  with beautiful sunshine but the wind was freezing.  We wondered through the streets and hubby bought me some Whitby 'Jet' Jewellery unique to the area.  They are opening a Geological Museum in Whitby soon to explain what the stone JET  is (fossilised wood) how and why Jet is formed and found there. I think that would be very interesting.

We went up the 199 steps to the Abbey and surveyed the beautiful  views   of the town, harbour and estuary. The town was busy with school children on coach trips to this beautiful place.  Hubby was in his element looking through all the charity, second hand shops there. After picking up a model copper/brass  dive helmet in North Wales for far less than in the south he was set to find another bargain.  He is making it into a lamp photos to follow!

I'll leave you with the views.  

199 steps later!

Blues skies lovely views

Fishing vessels line the quay side

Beautiful Views

Old Town Hall

The beautiful Abbey at the top

Whitby's smallest house? 

Our next stop on the way to Scarborough was Robins Hood Bay.  Last time I visited my friend we couldn't get down there as the weather was horrific! The foot journey both up and down to Robin Hoods Bay is not for the faint hearted! 


But when you do take the journey you are not disappointed!






We left Robin Hoods Bay with 3 small pieces of black stone in our bag hoping that it may be jet! My friend  has learnt to identify it said one of the pieces was indeed jet so  hubby is busy cleaning it up and it will be made into another piece of jewellery.

My friend is a very private person so I won't go into any details only to say she lives in a 17th century cottage that they have renovated. They have built a beautiful new kitchen extension onto and I was there when the builders started. It was a very trying time as everything had to be done to Grade 1 listed building status and money disappeared like water! I was champing at the bit to see the kitchen and as we stood in the dining room I couldn't see a door to it.  Then low and behold she pushed a small bookcase which was a door!!!! Behind lay the beautiful modern kitchen with the biggest Aga I have ever seen! 

This is not her door but I thought I'd show you an example.  She chose leather bound faux books and lots of the titles, in particular 'Trials and Tribulations' because the work on the house had been a difficult period in their life. We had lunch and a great catch up and  her hubby popped home to say hello.  It was a great day all round.  Back soon. Tx 

Monday, 20 November 2017

Scotland

Saturday : After many hours in the car travelling through some breath taking countryside we arrived at our cottage in Killearn Sterling, home for the next 5 nights.
The owners lived in the house to the side of the cottage. The front of the cottage faced a wooded area and you parked at the rear which seemed rather strange until the owner explained.  The cottage was the station masters lodge.  The original railway 'West Highland Way' ran in front of the cottage but has since been dismantled and become a country walk which we completed the following day.
The white building is the distillery and the mound is behind.

Views from half way up the mound

We had a lovely open fire every evening and we thoroughly enjoyed the lack of street lighting and the absolute silence of the country side. The following morning (Sunday) we completed an 8.5mile  walk to the Gelgoyne distillery and up the mound behind.  I couldn't make it to the top it was just too steep and slippery underfoot. I wished I could have though as the views of Loch Lomond from there are great. Having burnt a 1000 calories on this walk alone I cooked  a mock chicken Sunday dinner and we relaxed in front of the fire. On Monday we went to Balloch village a short distance away.  It is known as the gateway to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. We walked around the some of the shoreline of Loch Lomond which is 24 miles long and between ¾ of a mile and 5 miles wide. We went through Balloch country park up to the castle which was closed for renovation.  There was a stone mason replacing some of the stone work to the front of the castle and  it was looking rather sad . We noticed that the Scots are a dog loving nation. We bumped into one lady in the park who literally had 9 dogs with her.  I  asked if they were all hers and she replied yes. She had two French bull dogs, a giant Poodle, Springer Spaniel, Jack Russell, Alsatian, Labrador  and 2 others I can't recall.  

Tuesday: We went into Glasgow. I have been to Edinburgh many times but never to Glasgow. The shops were all dressed for Christmas. Frasers is an old department store that is architecturally divine and hosts a wonderful light display. Parking for 5 hours was an eye watering £8.80 but well worth it.  
Blurred! but Christmas lights to die for.

Glasgow a mix of old and new
Wednesday:  We headed for the much smaller city of Sterling where William Wallace defeated the English. We spent a few hours exploring the town and buildings before heading back to the cottage.  We stopped in the village of Killearn and completed 4 miles of the Pipe Track (10 Miles in full) following the route of the pipe bringing clean water from loch Katrine to Glasgow. There's certainly no shortage of water in Scotland. 

Apparently water bills form part of the Council tax bill in Scotland, no meters and no shortages here! Thursday came and it was time to move on once again so with the car packed up we travelled east to the coast of  Yorkshire. Back soon. Tx 

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

UK trip continued

We had a restful nights sleep in Colwyn Bay and headed out to Llandudno the following morning. Llandudno was called the Queen of the Welsh resorts by the Victorians and Edwardians,  standing looking down at the crescent of traditional hotels on the sea front you can understand why.  There is a pier, a wide promenade that runs from one end of the bay to the other  and a really good shopping centre with a wide variety of shops new and old. There is an Alice and Wonderland Trail that has some fantastic statues of the characters from the book around the town.  Apparently Llandudno was the holiday  resort of the real Alice in Wonderland, Alice Liddell the girl who inspired Lewis Caroll.  However it has never been proven one way or another whether  Caroll met Alice in Llandudno or not. I was surprised how busy it was. Lots of the local hotels were dressed  for Christmas and school children were on holiday.


Lots of Christmas Jollies going on in the local hotels
After another long walk we treated ourselves to tea and Welsh-cakes at the Lemon Tree Tea rooms that had a  mural of Alice and the Mad Hatter on a wall. We then had a good look around the town,  I was very impressed with the large craft shop 'Craft Age' in Mostyn Street. We headed back to Colwyn Bay late afternoon to see if there was any tickets left for the following evenings   show starring Paul Sinha from The Chase.  We had spotted the board outside Colwyn theatre the day before but it was closed. I checked on line and there were some spaces and we could get a concession giving us a discount.  (£14 each)

Former Doctor and professional Chaser Paul Sinha is also a stand up comedian.  His show 'Shoutout to my Ex' was very honest, funny and we learned at lot  about all sorts of things from the 25 minute question and answer section at the end.  I won't spoil it in case anyone is going to see him but he did say he'd saved 5000 lives...............the day he left the NHS! Hehe!

Friday morning we headed for Rhyl another seaside town I visited as a child.  It was looking a bit tired and dreary when we arrived but lots of areas were closed down which I understood as it is November.  Seaside resorts take on a new life in the summer months. I would imagine it is very busy during the holiday season. I have taken this photo from the internet and its probably how I remember it.

We headed out into the country side for an hour and found  some lovely areas of outstanding beauty before making our way back to the hotel for a rest before the show.  The next day it was time to pack the car once again and head much further a field SCOTLAND.  Saturday morning brought glorious sunshine, rainbows and beautiful countryside.
Entering the Yorkshire Dales, BREATH-TAKING 

131 miles of the M6

Sunshine and rainbows

Before we left  Wales I did a shop at Iceland (which was included in this months food budget) as we would be staying in a self catering cottage in Scotland. I knew there was only one small Coop near by, so to keep costs down I packed a box of food before leaving Essex that might come in handy including a few herbs and spices to make tasty meals.. Tx