Saturday, 28 February 2015

February finalised

The YFG has gone to a party tonight and here I am watching a film on Netflix since I can't go to sleep until she gets home!  I took her and her friend and the other mum will be fetching them home in about an hour.  I have been helping at a quiz at the chapel - a great night of laughs and a good few pounds in the pot for the chapel funds too.

So how has your February gone?  I don't think ours has been too bad.

We did get some cash in the savings pot at the end of the month - it was that last few days that helped and we managed to wring a couple of hundred pounds out of the account for the savings!  It all helps in the long run.......

I got through the anniversaries that I had not been sure about - the FH's sixth month marker and my mum's death in 1998 on the 26th February.  Neither of them would want us to live in the past, and they would both be cheerleading for us to move on - and we are.

I've absolutely embraced the Kondo tidying and my bedroom is still clean and tidy - and everything that I have put in its place is still there, which is an achievement for me.

That's my stash area - wool in the cupboard on the right and in the boxes in the middle. There are also craft patterns and books in those boxes too.  The drawers on the left have got various items of clothing, and the bottom drawer has some presents ready for birthdays and even Christmas!  This area used to be where the FH's clothes hung as there is a rail in the section; my clothes hang next door in the adjoining section.  I keep all our socks in the wee chest of drawers that you can just glimpse on the right.

The FH made this bed and it has four drawers under each side, so I can keep toiletries and loo rolls stashed under there.   I love my IKEA quilt and it brings me a great deal of satisfaction each morning to make my bed and the room looks tidy.

But the best thing is really - the empty spaces!  Clear surfaces are very liberating, as well as much easier to keep clean because we don't have to keep working round things!

Friday, 27 February 2015

Thanks for the thoughts

You know you are all amazing, don't you!?!  Thanks for all the lovely comments, and thanks for the nosey I have just had around some new blogs that I have found since some of you came out of the woodwork and said "Hello" - great to meet you all!

Been a busy one today and I am just off to bed - back again tomorrow for a bit of a round up of the month.  Hope you have a lovely weekend xx

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Blog give-away

Hitting milestones is always cause for celebration!

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And I do like an excuse for a hitting 400,000 page views this week would seem like as good a reason as any!

So all of this week's commenters, including those today received until midnight tomorrow, will have their names popped in a hat and I will find you a little something from the Fens.  Not entirely sure what yet, and it may have to change if I end up posting it to the other side of the world!

Just one way of saying, "Thanks" for hanging around here, friends!

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Finishing posts

When you are down, I am always one for looking for the positives in life.....there are several finishing posts in sight now, and I am heading towards a couple of them at a good rate.

First of all, it is Wednesday night - that means that Friday is on the horizon already as we are already more than halfway through the week.  Phew!  Some weeks are harder to get through than others.

Second, I am now into the sixth month of my work on the phones.  That means that in less than a month, I could hand in my notice with no financial penalty.  I'm not going to give notice until I have another job, but just knowing that I am so close to the six month get-out opportunity gives me cause for a wee jig around the kitchen.

And third, and possibly the biggest - I have just this week finished the last unit of Faith and Worship for submission at the end of March.  Now I do still have to do three Bible studies/exegeses, but I am definitely on the last lap.  I've been at this for over four years - it has been both joyous and hard work, but infinitely rewarding and deeply challenging.  I'm nearly done...

And tomorrow is the day when I consider my finances and look to see whether we are any closer to the savings target for the year.  I'm honest with you, and at this moment in time - I don't think we will be very close to this month's target at all - BUT I have paid the cam belt bill on the car for £290 and I have put money aside for the car insurance bill, so actually, I'm not doing so bad.  Put it this way, I don't owe anyone anything, thank goodness.  There's some money coming in at the end of the month, so we may be able to make a late sprint some way towards the target, but it may end up more of a limp than a sprint!

Thanks for reading, folks, and don't forget the Aldi voucher tomorrow if it would be of use to you xx

Aldi and Sainsburys vouchers

Good news - several people have commented that the Aldi vouchers will be in the paper tomorrow, so I shall definitely be making an attempt to find a copy of the Mirror then. I need to stock up on some of the things which we prefer to get from Aldi, like their washing-up liquid, laundry liquid and shower gels.  We won't spend £40 on just those items, but there will be tinned tomatoes, probably a little meat and some fish, fruits and veggies and other items to bulk up the order to hit the target.

And then there was the Sainsbury's order last night.  It just gets better!  I used a £10-off-when-you-spend-£50 voucher again on the order, and replenished the fridge and cupboards with things that I had whittled down a little whilst the YFG was away last week.  The £1 delivery slot was at 9-10pm last night, but we actually got the order at 8.15pm - the driver had come from such a distance with so few deliveries that he was running well ahead of schedule and called to see if he could deliver early. After me, his next delivery was at 10pm, and well over 50 miles from me, heading north!  So I actually got a £2-worth delivery slot which meant we had it all scanned and packed away well before bed time!  And there was another £10 off voucher attached to the receipt, to be used by the 10th March, so I shall have to organise my shopping to accommodate that - can't miss out on that!

Last night, we had to go to school for a meeting about the YFG's exams - we are on a 10 week countdown, apparently.  Revision all the way. She is staying after school today, I think, to work on her Textiles coursework project.  Hard to think my "baby" will be 16 this summer and heading towards A levels and beyond - time really moves on when you're not looking!

The sun is shining now that the showers have passed over, so I am hoping for a brighter day today than we had yesterday.  Lots of work to do on the phones today, but at least I am working at the back of the house where the sun is brightest. Washing is already done and on the airers in the back bedroom so that will benefit from the sunshine too.....Have a good day xx

Monday, 23 February 2015

Less talking tomorrow

I'm not going to upset my friend in Suffolk by mentioning the unmentionable, but let's just say that I have done extra hours on the phone today because I have to go somewhere tomorrow first thing, and may come home with a numb mouth, which may take an hour or so to wear off!  Not looking forward to it.....

Thank you for all your supportive comments about my last post - the encouraging words really lift me up, and I appreciate it.  As you say, it is in God's hands.  Patience is a virtue, they also say........I'm not feeling terribly virtuous.

Not too much to report today since I spent a lot of time working - I have done half of tomorrow's work today, and will hope to manage the rest of it sometime tomorrow, in between gymnastics and a school meeting tomorrow evening about the YFG's exams.

This is the week that the Aldi voucher should be in the papers on Thursday - I haven't seen it confirmed anywhere yet so please keep your eyes peeled and let us know as soon as you spot it anywhere official.  I could do with stocking up on my Aldi essentials this month as I didn't go last month.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Say one for me tonight?

Just asking for your prayers for the next little while - I have heard that there is a chance our circuit will take on a lay employee to spread out the workload a little as one of the moving-on ministers will not be replaced in September.  So I am praying that a) the leadership team DO decide to go ahead and take that path and that b) I can have a good go at getting the position.

I have been on the phones for five months now, and I am very grateful for the money and indeed the job in a marketplace where so many are struggling to find work. But I have no passion for the work, and it is not really my thing at all.  The lay employee position would be something I would wake up every morning and be inspired to do - it wouldn't be an easy job in many ways, but it is so much more than a "job".  God's work can never be just a job.

A Pause in Lent in the Fens

A Pause in Lent Floss
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Joining in today with Ang over at Tracing Rainbows with the "A Pause in Lent" series.

The Gospel passage that I am preaching on today is Mark 1 where the Holy Spirit drives Jesus out into the wilderness: a time of trial and temptation.  It seems that God has sent plenty of people out into the wilderness throughout the Bible - Abraham, Moses, Elijah, the Israelites. They all go out not quite sure about something, and they come back as grounded people of God. God never sent them out there to laugh at them, to abandon them and to leave them there - they always come back, and He always cares for them whilst they are there.

And so I think we have to go into the wilderness at times too, but with the reassurance that God is looking out for us, caring for us, and that whilst we are in the "wilderness" [whatever constitutes our own wildernesses], our faith will be deepened and strengthened.  Perhaps we'll go more than once, too.  I don't think we should be afraid of these times, for God never leaves us, and after all, Jesus went through it, to lead the way for us.

Time to go and get "dressed" for church now - thinking of Ang's post this morning!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Catching up

Watching the train draw into the station last night, I had a huge grin on my face, and the YFG stepped off the train bang on time - no delays this time.  We soon got back to the house, and I had the fire lit and a hot water bottle in her bed since she had texted me from the train to say that she was cold.  She soon warmed up and had to strip off her jumper in the cosiness of the sitting room!

She unpacked her bag all over the sitting room floor to share some of her purchases with me, and then came and sprawled with her legs on my lap as we sat on the sofa and caught up on the week.  It is fabulous to have her home!  She is still asleep now, and likely to be for a little longer, I should think.

I watched a film last night whilst doing the ironing; the film was called "Machine Gun Preacher" and I was wondering what I had let myself in for in the first twenty minutes or so, but it was setting the scene for the dramatic changes to come. The horrifying story of the atrocities in Sudan was portrayed without pulling any punches, and showed how children's lives are destroyed by war.  Really makes you think and puts things into perspective: there was a hard scene where Sam Childer's daughter in Pennsylvania wanted to talk to him about getting a limo to travel to her prom with her friends when he was desperate to find $5000 to keep the children in the Sudanese orphanage fed and looked after.

And so today stretches in front of me - the YFG's washing needs to be done, and there is a service to prepare for tomorrow - but no gymnastics, no shopping and not too much else pressing, so there is still a bit of the half-term holiday feeling in the air!

Friday, 20 February 2015

Good while it lasted

My coupon-bashing in Tesco came to a sad end yesterday when the cashier on the till refused to take both of the coupons - I protested that I had been allowed to use both of them in the previous two weeks, but no! 

If I wanted to use both, I had to spend £60. No chance!  She was kind enough to give me back the £3 one and used the £6 one instead, and I also used the £2.59 till spit, and another one for 29p, so I still totalled £8.88 off the shop, but £11.88 would have been better!

In my own positive-outlook kind of way, I can be very grateful that it worked for two weeks out of the three that the vouchers covered, and also that I still had a good deal in the shop yesterday.  I scored a huge pack of  washing powder for a church fundraiser at half price too, so I was happy with that.

And you know what else? Double whammy today - it's Friday [yay!] and the YFG will be home tonight - I have missed her SO much.......

Thursday, 19 February 2015

What was that?

Well, I have just had the wind taken out of my sails this morning, and I am sat here wondering what just happened!  I do check my stats on this site most days, and it usually bimbles around 500 page views a day at the moment - thanks to all of you good folk who keep coming back!  But this morning, something very weird happened, and over 450 page views were recorded within about 20 minutes........

I have no idea where they all came from, or why, but they have made for a very interesting spike in my graphs!

The sun is shining here, and the wind is blowing gently. I have to do some phone work now and then I am going to town this afternoon: I have to interview a senior preacher as part of the last unit of the church course, and the chap who has agreed to do it with me today is a preacher of over 60 years' service, so I think it is going to be interesting.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Do you know?

Perhaps you have already met? 

I have found a new-to-me website and Facebook page today, called Budget Menu Queen. This woman publishes costed meals which aim to feed a family of four a main meal for £2.50.  There is an accompanying book, if you wish, but there are LOTS of recipes for free on her website and the FB page.  I have "liked" the FB page so that I can go back and browse through the recipes.

Just wanted to share that, as these look like the kind of recipes people need in these times.  The more websites like hers, and Frugal Queen's, who share good value food which isn't fussy, the better!

The girls were off to the beach in Aberdeen when I spoke to them late morning. Here I have been working, then out in the garden - hacking away at some very overgrown lavender bushes - but in the sun, it is glorious.  Cleaned out the fire and laid it for tonight, and prepped my tea, too.  UJ is here, and we have had a sit outside with a cuppa in the sun - very relaxing!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Quiet life

From what I understand, life in a student room has been a bit "bor-ing" for the YFG today whilst the EFG has been out at lectures and labs, but we knew that she would have to spend some time alone today, so she should have been prepared [she was - she took work to do for revision, but I just don't think she felt like doing it!] and carried on!  However, I had a couple of chats with her, and they are having a pizza and DVD night tonight with the EFG's friends.  Tomorrow the EFG has a free day and so they can go off and do things - I think the beach is on the list, as well as the shops.

Life here has been peaceful - housework, phone work, lunch, a sit in the sun with a book, cleaning out the chooks and a shower, preparing my tea to cook later, then phone work again, eating my tea, and now I am contemplating ironing or church work for what is left of the evening - such a thrilling life in the Fens, eh?!  It suits me!

The weather has been so good these past two days that I was overjoyed last night to see my garden lights twinkling as it got dark - they don't work all winter as there isn't enough light each day to charge them up, so it is a great day when they start up again as it is a sure sign that the days are lengthening - not very natural, but a good indicator for me, and I love to see them twinkling in the trellis.

Lent commences tomorrow with Ash Wednesday.  I am thinking about what to "do" as I like to try to be a bit more reflective or thoughtful at least in Lent - should I do something extra or give up something? What do you do, if you do anything?  Not much time for me to decide...

Monday, 16 February 2015


The YFG left here this afternoon in a rain storm, so I hope that the reception in Aberdeen will be a little warmer, even if only in spirit.  She has texted me to say that she has enjoyed cottage pie courtesy of the First Class menu, and has passed over the Forth Bridge - only about another hour to go to arrival time in Aberdeen now!

It's been a heck of a day but she has come through her icky cough and cold, pulled herself up and gone - and I am so proud of her: she looked so grown up settling down in the train as I waved her off.

We did manage a speedy trip into town this morning, SusanM, and I bagged a new mini oven in Lidl. I shall be trying it out tomorrow with a baked potato for my dinner.  It was £26.99 and looks very similar to the last one - I think it is grey, though, but I haven't had time to get it out of the box yet.  Will let you know how I get on.  Thanks for letting me know - I wouldn't have got it otherwise.

Off for a bath and then to read in bed for a while, with my hot water bottle by my toes!  Night xxx

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Monday looms

Sunday is over all too quickly again!  

The assessed service went well this morning, despite only coming together late last night - but it worked!  

My Dad came  over this afternoon to sit by the fire and chat, and then left the girls some pocket money for their time together this week.  

And this evening? Some knitting, watching Call the Midwife and then the YFG was catching up with House again....relaxing together was good.  No ironing was desperate to be done because she didn't need her uniform for the morning, thank goodness!  

Her bag is nearly packed for her trip tomorrow and we have consulted the online menu for first class travel on the train tomorrow to see what she might choose for her evening meal!  We've had the EFG on the phone too with some last minute reminders.

Hope you have had a good weekend - and I am already looking forward to the next one, when she will be home safe again.  I am going to enjoy my "me" time this week but I shall definitely miss her!

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Bagging a bargain

I've had a bargain or two out of Mr Tesco today, and it doesn't half feel good to work the system and get what you can out of the big corporations.  I know my little saving is a drop in the ocean as far as they are concerned but it is all grist to the mill here.

I had two more of those "get £3/£6 off when you spend £30" vouchers, so I combined them to get £9 off a total spend of just over the £30.  But I bought three ink cartridges on a 3-for-2 deal which also saved me £11.odd, and to cap it all off, the Price Promise malarkey gave me a till spit for £2.59.....All in all, I reckon that I've paid only about half of what that basket "should" have cost me today. Result!

This morning was the easy part of the day - coaching at gym. Since then, I hit the shops, came home and put the little haul away, hosted a meeting at the house here for gymnastics folks, did some tutoring in maths for a Y8 family friend who is struggling a wee bit with his confidence, and now I have just put the service for the morning together.

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The YFG is still snuffling around, but she is better at this end of the day than she was this morning. It took me an age to get her all set up in my bed with all her requirements around her before I could leave.  It was one, "Could you just...?" after another!  Bless her, I am glad that she isn't as poorly tonight as she was last night.  The paracetamol, orange juice, Olbas Oil, Vicks Rub, honey'n'hot lemon and cuddles must be doing some good!

Hope you are having a peaceful weekend, wherever you are xxx

Friday, 13 February 2015

Down again

I've been looking forward to the weekend all week. Most specifically to Sunday afternoon as that is my free time with no obligations to fulfill! 

 But now I have a poorly YFG, tucked up in bed, blowing hot and cold, shivery and not very happy.  She's got tissues bunged up her nose like tampons [TMI, probably, sorry!] and she's feeling miserable. Throat glands are up, she's got a hacking cough.....need I go on?

I have dosed her up with paracetamol for the temperature, cold flannel too, and cough medicine.  Sleep will do her good, I hope, too.  She's also had orange juice for the sore throat and the vitamins!

I think I'll just change my name to Florence, lady of the lamp, as that's all I am doing just lately.  The poor love isn't having much luck what with one thing and then another.

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I have serious respect for single parents with small children now, as I am struggling with the responsibility, and I think it would have been ten times worse when they were younger!

Will she get to Aberdeen on Monday?

Who knows?  It's going to take some serious rest to manage it.....

You've been Kondo'd

Well, my bedroom has been, at least!  I have read about the KonMari method of tidying lately on various blogs, including Elaine's at MFin3, and thought that it sounded like a plan.  I am all for tidying, but so short on time just lately, so if it stays tidy, so much the better!  I bought the book about it all on the Kindle, and devoured it last week, and then I started tidying out my drawers and "stuff" in the bedroom.

Well, there's plenty of floor in there now.  And about three bin bags of extra clothes [some of it some of the FH's, I admit] have moved out.  And there is another bag full of items that are on their way to the charity shop tomorrow.  I've cleared out stuff that a) doesn't fit, b) I don't really like and c) I had got too much of in the first place.

My room is just that, Mine, so it is less likely to get cluttered up with other people's stuff.  The living room is going to be very challenging to deal with.....

And the lovely lady who wrote the book and invented the method has a huge thing about books.  I'm not even going there at the moment.  Clothes and general tat I can deal with , but my books - no. Not yet. But I do acknowledge that some of them have got to be released to new owners, but I haven't got time to think about that - that's my excuse and I am sticking to it.

When Easter comes and Faith & Worship is finished, I shall have more time to work on this as a bigger project, but for now, maintaining the tranquility of my room is a start.  And I love it.  Pictures to follow.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Nearly there

Only today and tomorrow to get through before the weekend is here!  

Yesterday's WWDP meeting went quite well as far as I was concerned. There is a group of local churches, some Methodist and some Church of England, which come together to have the Day of Prayer together each year, and we are hosting it. When I agreed to be the "organiser", it was last March, and the FH was alive and I was at home with him. Things have changed, so I had to say to the ladies who met that although I could attend the service, I wouldn't have time for a lot of advance preps and wouldn't be able to hang around afterwards either!  I asked for volunteers for the making of various props, which I am not sure that they were expecting, but they stepped up and it is all sorted now.  Delegation is a lovely word....

Technology I am not so keen on. I had a phone call last night from a steward at the church where I am preaching on Sunday. They have a projector and all the words to the hymns are put up on the wall, along with the order of service, so that they have a nice picture up there whilst the prayers are being read out, for example, and a suitable image whilst the offertory is being made....All very well, but she wants it all today.  My services sometimes don't come together until Saturday afternoon or evening, so it feels like a lot of pressure to be able to produce this today.  It also means that I can't move things around or change my mind about something later on.  Dratted technology!  The older chapels where they just use hymn books suit me much better....

And who runs?  A group of my friends have taken up running and it seems that more and more people I know in their forties are running.  The weird thing is that I sometimes have dreams about running, long distances, not just to catch a bus.  I'm seriously trying to curtail this urge.  I don't think I shall be running this year.  Or next.  It IS frugal and free, but probably not for me.

Have a good day, friends, and a warm welcome to those who have joined us here lately xxx

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Chasing my tail

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This week is getting a bit stupidly mad!  Days are being crowded with places we need to go, like the dentist yesterday and a Governors' meeting that went on and on, and meetings like today - Church Council at 10.30 and then the Women's World Day of Prayer preparation meeting at 2pm [yes, Ang - but better late than never, hey!] so I feel like I am chasing my tail like this gorgeous dog!  The chapel service I am taking on Sunday is going to be assessed [again!] and so there is that little extra bit of pressure on me in the preparation for that.

The house goes undusted and unvacuumed, and I am longing for Friday when it will be half term and all outside activities will stop - apart from work - yay!  The YFG is off to Aberdeen on Monday and I am looking forward to some "me" time to stop and think a little.

When I sigh on Friday, I think you will all hear me!

But, thinking positively, I have only one more unit of Faith and Worship to finish before the submission date in March, and the weather is beginning to look more hopeful - the nights are drawing out now, and the hens are spending a little more time foraging for bugs before they turn in each evening.  Eggs will soon be plentiful again.

And Sainsbury's gave me ANOTHER £10 off a £50 shop voucher with the delivery tonight.  That's going to do nicely for a stock up shop when the YFG gets back from Aberdeen - I'm going to try to eat from the stores whilst she is away.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Drying room

We have high pressure settled over us at present and that is bringing us glorious sunshine!  It streams in the window of this south facing spare room, and we are drying the laundry up there at the moment, on an assortment of airers.  The window is open ever so slightly, and so is the bathroom window next door.  That allows for a good airflow and prevents any problems with condensation.

So this is what the room looks like in the sun...

and this is with the washing in situ. The FH made the two wooden airers years ao and the little one in the middle is an Argos investment.  I am bitterly regretting letting the EFG take the other one of those to Aberdeen, and I should have just given her some cash to buy one when she arrived.  They are extremely useful, and no longer on sale, sadly.  Once I had mastered the art of pegging items onto the little airer as if it were a washing line, I could hang much more up. Between them, the three airers will hold two loads of washing.

Items dry under this arrangement very quickly.  Towels are folded up and put straight into the linen cupboard in the corner of the room, and items that don't require ironing are folded and put into the airing cupboard. Ironing is put into a basket which lives on the bed as it dries and then ironed when I have a basket load.  

Soon the weather will warm up, and I will progress to hanging out in the verandah.  I confess to be desperately looking forward to spring and summer days when I can put the laundry out on the proper outside washing line and it will come in, beautifully scented with fresh air!  

Not a tumble drier in sight and quite a saving on the electricity by making use of the solar power of the sun.  I would always recommend a south-facing house - we rejected many in our last search for a house because of their aspect!

Monday, 9 February 2015

Six weeks later

..and the jigsaw is complete!

I love the little cockerel watching everything from the fence.

UJ has finished it!  He had some help from the FH's cousin's wife on occasions, but he has mostly done it on Wednesday evenings when he has been here. I think it got a bit more attention when he was here looking after things whilst I was at the hospital with the YFG last month - but it is a lovely picture and he was so pleased to have got it done!

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Glorious Sunday

A drive across the Fens and into Norfolk under clear blue skies and bright sunshine to lead worship.

Lunch outside under the verandah, followed by a short nap with the cat on my lap!

YFG was taken swimming with family friends who live nearby.

Call the Midwife on the tv tonight - 10 babies born!  

Hot bath.....

Night, all xxx

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Add it all up

Part of designing my spreadsheet for my £5K challenge was to look at all the points I am accumulating at various loyalty and bonus schemes - and I was really pleased at how it is all adding up!

I used the vouchers which Sainsbury's sent me towards Christmas and the bonus points came through last month, for 5000 Nectar points - that's £25 in benefits!  My Nectar balance is sitting at just over £42 now.  And then there are the Tesco Clubcard vouchers which plopped onto the doormat this week - another £12 which could be worth more if spent carefully: the coupons can be doubled up to use in store on specific items, and can also be used to buy deals.  Current total on that system is £33.50.....adding up nicely.

I've stopped ignoring the YouGov survey alerts and started doing the surveys again - and that is slow to accumulate!  I am only on about £17 there, and it won't pay out until I get to £50....maybe next year!  And then there is the Shop&Scan payment - I usually choose to take this in Amazon vouchers and I am heading towards £30 there in the next week or so.

I'm also waiting for a £30 giftcard to come through from Tesco Insurance after I got a good deal on the car insurance there last month, but that could be six weeks before that is issued.

So, casting YouGov aside and not counting giftcards until they are in one's hand, I am still about £100 up - and for not doing an awful lot really!

And how to spend this bounty?  Nectar points are likely to be hoarded and added to until the girls' birthdays in the summer, or even Christmas if I can hold out that long!  Clubcard vouchers are also possibly going to be doubled up for clothing in the long run - I am a fan of a fairly basic wardrobe and my jeans are going to need replacing this year!  The Shop&Scan points will eventually be traded in for Amazon points - again, possibly towards items for birthdays, or books that I need for church reading!  It saves me spending cold hard cash that I have had to earn, anyway, and in the main, this is money earned by doing things we do everyday.......but it does all help in the grand scheme of things :)

Friday, 6 February 2015

A bit of sensationalism sells

I thought I would have a look at the new tv programme about reducing the family grocery bill.

Eat Well for Less?
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These two chaps, Gregg Wallace and Chris Bavin [never heard of him, but apparently he is an award-winning green-grocer], set out to overhaul a family's shopping habits with the aim of reducing their outgoings.

I should have known.

It wasn't going to be Mr and Mrs Average with two children, spending £100 a week, and getting it down to a more reasonable £60.  Oh no, it was Mr and Mrs Big Spender with 4 children, and they spent, on average, £355 a week.  A week!  They also visited the shops/supermarkets 17 times in an average week......that's spending!  They had some very specific ideas about brands, too.  To give them some credit, they did seem to take on board what was suggested - but it was nothing we didn't already know: scale down the brands, cook from scratch more, and shop with a plan in mind, for example.

So if you start with someone spending so much more than average, getting it down is not going to be that challenging, is it?  Apparently, the average family with four children spends about £105 on a weekly basis.  A challenging programme would have helped Mr and Mrs Average bring that down even further so that we could see some stellar strategies like those from Elaine at Mortgage Free in Three [check this link for a great idea to help with meal planning] and recipes like this one from Frugal Queen.

Sadly, I don't think people who read frugal blogs have anything much to learn from this programme, and I shall not be wasting another hour on it next week.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

A good start

I've made a cracking start to the challenge by finding a £20 note in my purse, in a section I don't often use, so that is very handy!

I was in town this lunchtime for some errands, and I bought myself a lovely 99p tin to use to pop all my change into. I did this a few years ago when we were going on holiday to Bridlington - I ended up with about £140 and enough to pay for all our treats, outings and food whilst we were away.  This time, I am going to put all my egg money in it, as the chooks will be laying again in abundance shortly and I shall have a few regular customers for eggs.  All the pounds help!

(image from

I did laugh to myself though, as the tin is a child's one, themed for the "Frozen" movie - which I haven't seen - and Ella in the movie has a song which seems to be centred around the line, "Let it go!" which is the exact opposite of what I shall be doing with the dosh in the tin!  Considering that someone is charging £5.99 for these on eBay, I think I scored a bargain there.

I also took some time this morning to create a baseline spreadsheet, which I have used before, to monitor my savings.  Things wax and wane, but as long as the overall total heads upwards, I shall be happy.  I aim to be £5000 better off at the end of the year than I am today......and the spreadsheet I found on the computer and used to re-jig for this year is the very one I used in 2012 and 2013, which meant that I could see which months were good for boosting the coffers and which were the worst drains on the finances.  Watching patterns helps.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

New Challenges

I've been a bit lax in the challenge department lately. What with the FH's death and the aftermath of that, getting the EFG off to uni and then finding a job, the summer and autumn flew past without me doing much more than getting by finance-wise.  January had a promising start, but three weeks of being sidetracked by the rogue appendix kind of put the kybosh on any great plans for frugality there.

But February has arrived now.  

The YFG is back at school, and normality is on the horizon!  I am so chuffed to be able to say that I put £500 into the ISA at the end of January - and I don't really know how I managed it, apart from saying that being at a hospital bedside and then trapped at home with a recuperating invalid don't give many opportunities for trivial spending......I lie.  I did buy some magazines in the hospital when I got fed up with knitting and I had read both of the Jack Reacher books which I took along.  That wasn't too bad.  Because my patient was a child, I also got reduced parking - £2.60 a day for however long I was there, so that was a help to the expense account too.

(image from

In 2012  I managed to save £ with the best part of 11 months to go of 2015, I'm going to have another shot at that again.  It amounts to about £455 a month.  I think that it is very do-able, and I am going to have a jolly good go at it.  I shall be throwing all that I can in that direction, and starting from today.  

I have lots of "stuff" to sell, including the FH's beekeeping gear, and lots of books from my bookselling days, so I think that I need to organise myself into some kind of strategy for moving this stuff onward.  Reducing our possessions has to continue, and this seems like a good enough reason to motivate me into action.  I shall be making use of ebay and other local selling sites to bless other people with things that they need at realistic prices, I hope. 

[When I work out how to do it, I'll start some kind of box in the sidebar to keep track of how I am getting on with this.]

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

In the kitchen this week

A day later than I was in the habit of doing this, but here at last.  I need to get back into this habit so that we know what we are planning to eat for the week!

Last night we had sausages with mash and veg, and I have a sneaky sausage left over that is destined to be enjoyed in a wheat/dairy/gluten free pitta bread for my lunch today.

Tonight - frozen salmon portions are going to be cooked somehow, and served with veggies.  There are some great recipes out there for salmon, so I am going to set the YFG a task to find one for which we have all the ingredients whilst I am at gym.  Perhaps something slightly spicy or gingery would be good on such a chilly day!

Wednesday - I think that a pasta or rice dish might be a good choice today - something simple and basic like pasta with some sauce and grated cheese for the YFG, or just a quick risotto.  We have lots and lots of frozen veg which I can pop into a risotto so this might be an opportunity to use up some of the frozen peppers, mushrooms, broccoli and beans which are in the depths of the freezer!

Thursday - the YFG may have her first piano lesson since Christmas, so a casserole in the oven before we go would be a good plan, and I am pretty sure that there is some diced beef in the freezer.  Popped in a casserole with some onions, mushrooms, carrots and gravy, we can look forward to that when we get home.

Friday - This is usually the night that the YFG gets a bit more of her own choice!  There are pizzas and scampi as well as some spicy chicken strips for her to choose from, as well as some "rustic" chips and peas which would all keep her happy.  I might have a baked potato and some beans.

Saturday - I have a plan for a roast chicken this weekend. If I cook it on Saturday, I can "do" things with the leftovers on Sunday and Monday.......sounds like a plan!


The YFG was quite excited this morning to be able to make the first footprint in the pristine snow!

You can see that she trod very carefully to make a good print.

Our side of the street still only has her footprints where she walked off to catch the bus, but I am sure that there will be other prints out there by the time she comes home.  The dog walkers will be out shortly if they haven't already been out.

The poor chickens were not too keen on the chilly stuff when I let them out at 7.30am.  Some just looked out of the hen houses and went back in, to let another one come and have a look, and a couple took a flying leap to try to avoid having to tread on the snow.  They all came out eventually, as they were getting peckish and wanted their breakfast!  Food usually wins in the end.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Weather arrives on cue

This morning, I had two loads of washing on the airers after I changed our beds and then I cleaned out both chook houses.  After all that effort, I sat outside under the verandah in the FH's favourite spot and enjoyed a cup of tea in the glorious sunshine we were having - under clear blue skies. It was lovely!  The first outside cuppa of the year.

Tonight - it is snowing.

Not best pleased, as I have to go to gymnastics tomorrow and I hate driving in the snow, so I am really hoping that it goes by 3pm tomorrow afternoon!  It does look beautiful in the glow of the streetlights, but it's going to be mushy in the morning....

But, on the other hand, if I didn't need to go to gym, I would quite happily stay snug and warm at home.  I've had the fire alight all day, and it has kept the sitting room warm whilst I have been in and out.  I've got the news on now, and we are set for more snow overnight, I think.  We've got all the food we need, plenty to do and lots to keep warm with, so we are all set.  I did think there would be more "winter" before we saw Spring.  

Cold winds blowing down from the North have brought us this, after it has deposited some on the EFG in Aberdeen - she's got more than us, I think, but hers is less attractive as it has been hanging around for a while.  

If the back garden still looks nice in the morning, I may even be tempted to take a photo!

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Keeping warm

One barrow load at a time, the two tonne-bags of wood were moved to the chicken shed....
I did one bagful and then had a cup of tea - then resumed and did the other!
It certainly kept me warm hauling it around this afternoon.

The load safely stacked in the shed.

This is the remains of the last delivery - cobwebs and all!  This wood has already dried out and will be what we are burning for the rest of this winter.

A full woodshed is a comfort and a blessing - and an investment!

Fresh sheet

I have kicked off my re-focus on frugality by investing £80 of my usual Council Tax payment on a load of fire wood this month. Since there is no Council Tax payment due this month, I could have just moved the money into the savings, but I thought it would be sensible to stock up on some more firewood.

The wood was delivered yesterday afternoon and I have two tonne-bags of ready chopped wood sitting on the back driveway now - it was gone 4pm when it was delivered and there was no time last night to get it stacked. That will be a job for this afternoon.  It is wood which needs to be stacked so that it can continue to dry out and it will be ready to burn by the autumn.

Now that it is February, I am hoping that we are looking forward to Spring, but I do fear that we still have some wintry weather to come before the weather changes for the better. The wind is howling here this morning!

We went to Tesco yesterday afternoon when we came out of gymnastics. I had two vouchers which had arrived in the post - one for £4 off a £30 spend, and one for £6 off the same - and I was curious to know whether our local system would let them both be used on the same shop, inspired by reading on Sue's blog some time ago that she had done this in Wales - I certainly think it was Sue, but if it wasn't, I apologise - someone somewhere blogged about it!  Anyway, I tentatively offered both vouchers to the cashier, and they both went through, so I achieved a £10 saving on the shopping. I have a few more of those, and may use some of them, but I don't think I shall be going there every week!  They are not getting the better of me that easily, as I know that there is not going to be the need to spend as much as the vouchers require each week.

I was delighted this week to get the electricity direct debit down to £44 from £50. Entering a reading regularly has enabled the company to work out that we are not using £50 a month, and they can also see that we are heathily in credit too, so we have a reduction - and more pennies left in my bank account each month, rather than languishing in their coffers!  To think that we were paying Utility Warehouse over £100 a month when we were here first just shows that shopping around for better prices, combined with monitoring usage carefully, can really reduce the costs.  Yes, halving the number of people in the property most of the time has also helped, I know, but I am still running three freezers, hoovering the same number of times a week, and so some things haven't changed.

Today, I have a service to lead first of all, then I am planning to get that wood safely stacked away, do the ironing and get some work done on Faith & Worship - and then it is feet up with the knitting for a while when Call the Midwife and the last Last Tango in Halifax come on.  That is my Sunday night treat!