trEAsury ~ the January tally

For anyone following along with my state pension adventures – the objective this month, as with most months, was to spend less but some things just cannot be avoided – like the inevitable bills and fuel… and the most unavoidable but disastrous… taking my purse out with me!

I managed to roll over £84 of the last pension payment to this month but as the pension is paid 4 weekly (I promise I won’t gripe about this again) I won’t know if I have any spare funds until my next pension income on the 15th February.  My intention is to take out a percentage to save before I spend.

Transport costs

We did well on the fuel – just one fill up needed approx £75 for a full tank – we have not been very far this month and no trips up North and it has made such a difference – but we will be going on Friday (though this will come into February’s budget) – after all I cannot miss seeing my sister in a pantomime and Little L is going with us too this year and as she tells me “I am ‘super’ excited granny”, I only hope it doesn’t snow too much.

It was a heavy month for the cars – multi-insurance cover was due, road tax and a yearly service.

Health costs

Like the car I also had a maintenance check up at the dentist which is now £21.60 on the NHS and much cheaper than the car maintenance – maybe the NHS will do my car service next year.

Utilities

The general household utility bills are on a monthly standing order for the gas, electricity, telephone / internet and council tax.  Our council tax is paid in 10 monthly instalments so we don’t pay in February and March so this will help boost the float in the bill account.

Grocery and household costs

The groceries and household (toothpaste, toilet rolls etc) are working out at about £70 a week.  It has been a 5 week month for us and if you count it to the time we will be shopping again on the 5th February it will be almost 6 weeks so the average drops to £60 a week.  This is still disappointing and there are a few reasons that it has not dropped more –

  • Price rises – the supermarkets will insist on adding an extra 50p here and there as if we don’t notice.
  • I have been taking advantage of any items on offer that we normally use, but are not actually on my shopping list, and buying in multiples – it seems more cost-effective over the year to do this.
  • We are now spending a lot less on buying food and drink in Cafés when out and about – but of course the food has to come from somewhere so we are buying in extra bread and veg to make soup and sandwiches to take with us and this then comes within our grocery budget but obviously homemade food is far cheaper than buying out.  I also buy the wrapped chocolate biscuits or Cadbury’s mini rolls – whatever is on offer – to take with us if we do stop to have a drink anywhere – then we don’t have to buy expensive cakes and traybakes.
  • Although I am making a weekly menu plan I have not, as yet, been thinking in terms of how to make an individual meal cheaper or mix in some very cheap meals with some dearer ones over the week.   This will be my next step to reducing the food bill.  For instance a packet of brown lentils cost about 65p but mixed nuts for nut roast are £4 a packet, so a shepherd’s pie is far cheaper than a nut roast for us.  I am not a pasta fan but I could probably manage one pasta meal a week and pasta is very economical.  We perhaps have more cheese than we should too, so I could maybe cut down on our cheesy meals and use more pulses.
  • Fruit is just not cheap in this country out of season (and sometimes in season).  I have a small amount of mixed fruits each morning with my plain yoghurt to get my Vitamin C quota for the day, usually blueberries, oranges and grapefruit.  It is the blueberries that are the most expensive.  I have tried the frozen ones but for me they seem to have little taste and a watery texture.  To blend them to a puree means missing out on the fibre.

When I think about making savings in the food budget I always have to balance up the health costs too.  We are pretty healthy but I would not like to skimp on fruit and vegetables and as you know I always buy organically grown, even though it is dearer, as I feel passionately about supporting sustainable good husbandry practice that protects our countryside and wildlife.  I know this is not possible for a lot of people as price has to be the overriding factor but for as long as I can I will – there are many more economies I can make in other areas.

Home and garden purchases

Nothing major bought in this category so I was quite shocked to find I had spent £90 on bits and pieces for the house – inexpensive in themselves but collectively I spent far too much.

  • I bought 3 white wicker baskets reduced at Sainsbury’s to £5.33.  They have proved very useful though.
  • I took advantage of the Sainsbury’s after Christmas sale and bought 2 feather and down pillows £13.33 each to replace some worn out ones on our bed.
  • I also bought a natural cotton zipped pillow protector from John Lewis to protect the new feather pillows.  I thought there were two in the pack but it turns out there is only one so at £14 each that is expensive – more than the pillows.  I went for the natural cotton ones because the cheaper polyester have some kind of protective treatment on them and that put me off buying them.  I am dithering on this one – might return them.
  • My hot water bottle had also perished so I replaced that @ £2.99 from the Range (good value) but whilst I was there I bought 2 large plastic storage boxes for the loft to replace the old cardboard bankers boxes and they were £4.99 each which I think are much cheaper at Ikea. Oh well you win some you lose some.  I don’t like buying plastic but I think the items I am storing are much better protected in storage bins with lids than in cardboard.
  • My other two impulse buys are a wire magazine rack from Sainsbury’s reduced to £2.70 – hardly a bank breaker and I got one of the proper wire stands for my large Kilner drinks dispenser with tap, at £5.99 so I don’t have to balance it on an up turned bowl at parties and it should be much safer and easier to use.
  • And lastly I purchased 2 cushion covers in the sale at Dunelm – a pink fluffy one (I blame Sadie for this – the pink thing again!) and a lovely dark grey felt fabric with embroidered leaves that has a nice Scandinavian feel to it.  Total cost for both £16.  This was a bit of an impulse buy too – I should really have made some covers myself for my spare cushion pads.So although I didn’t think I was buying anything very much over the month obviously the spreadsheet tells a different story.

Gifts and card costs 

Gifts and cards came in at £54.99 this includes the gifts for the new baby and a 60th birthday present.  I failed to make cards this month again but it is on the agenda and would have saved me £6.50.

I also bought a few packs of Christmas cards in the sales for £4.22.  I now have 37 cards (11p a card) ready for next Christmas.

Crafts and hobbies

I was passing the craft shop in Holmfirth yesterday and decided to buy 4 different sized crotchet hooks and a ball of light grey DK wool to get me started.  I had just bought a Crotchet magazine in Sainsbury’s whilst doing the weekly shop on Tuesday it came with 8 small balls of wool included in the pack and I intend to sit in the evenings and have a go.  I can always resort to knitting if it doesn’t work out and goodness knows I have plenty of grandchildren now to knit for.

I also, in passing, saw one or two gardening magazines with free seeds – I weighed up the pros and cons of buying them this way.  I decided I had no use for carrots, turnips, parsnips and cabbage seeds and will only grow tomatoes, courgettes and salad leaves this year so would be better to buy individual packets of exactly what I need.

Eating out

A much reduced spend now – most of the £30 spent was from having a drink in Sainsbury’s – of course if I shopped without DH and left him at home it would be half this amount.  We can easily reduce this to zero by not having our pre-shop hot chocolate – it is just habit carrying on from when I used to go after a long day at work.  But then we all deserve a treat once in a while.

Clothing and footwear

Nothing purchased this month…nothing at all – big tick.

So that is the months analysis of our spending. As usual plenty of ups and downs in the budget – on the whole we survived and there was little hardship but my thinking is that for 2 people to live on one state pension you have to eat less and eat very cheap food, not go out anywhere unless on foot – maybe to a soup kitchen – and certainly not buy anything for the house or anyone else oh and nothing that requires too much heating to preserve the gas and electric – then you have cracked it.

Hoping to do better next month and any advice is welcome….

fEAsible ~ the importance of lists

I mentioned in my previous post that I had been planning – most of my planning still takes place in my ancient A5 planner  – I was introduced to planners at work in the 80’s, it came with my promotion – a leather ‘Time System’ planner but the better known Filofax is very similar and more recently the Bullet Journal system is now the new time planner, only more decorative.Everything was recorded in my planner – both for work and home and I didn’t go anywhere without it.  I still smile now when I remember those early days of time management planners – whenever I attended a meeting for work everyone else would arrive carrying theirs too and we would end the meeting synchronizing planner time!  I still use mine out of habit –  paper has always been my thing.

My planner is divided by a series of sections and each is full of ideas, lists and tasks – at the end of the day there is something very satisfying about making a little tick mark against a completed task, especially a task that has been rolling over week after week from one list to another most annoyingly.

ListsRecently I bought a book titled L’art de la Liste by the same author Dominique Loreau who wrote L’art de la Simplicité: How to Live More with Less.  She throws a whole new perspective on my love of lists.  She likens a list to a haiku (an expressive Japanese poem) or a journal as it becomes a record of your life and suggests the advantage of making lists allows us to rethink and restructure our ideas.

After a recent clear out I found a stack of my old to do lists and notes, which I have put aside to shred or burn on the cottage bonfire.  They can be quite enlightening and a reminder of what I have actually done with my time over the years.  After reading the book I may decide not burn them after all – but then that is not in keeping with a simple and minimalistic lifestyle…

– so such is my dilemma.

My word for the year is ‘transition’   as I am currently undergoing a period of big changes so my transformation to a simpler more streamlined home and lifestyle will require new routines that fit better with my new life.  Streamlining is an ongoing task and a bit like peeling away the layers of an onion.  It requires a slow steady approach and to help support my clearing out, paring down and keeping order I need to prevent future piles of stuff from reforming and building up again when I have an unexpected busy period or take my eye off the ball – which I know I will do.

Clutter spots seem to be contagious in this house and my main enemies are the washing and ironing pile, the finances, incoming emails and reading blogs and leaving comments – if I get busy they don’t get done.

So when I read the simple advice in The Joy of Less by Francine Jay to have a daily maintenance plan I knew this was the answer, after all I have time now in the mornings to do more as I am no longer rushing out to work.  Taking a few minutes each day to address the problem areas should help to keep the house in good order.  So this is my basic list:-

  • Put on one load of washing – this must be a full load where possible to save water and energy and is not always necessary every day but checking is.
  • Ironing – iron whatever I washed the day before
  • Finances – enter the receipts, balance statements and action anything waiting to be dealt with.
  • Check and reply to or delete incoming emails for the day
  • Blog comments – I include this in the list as keeping up with blogs I read and making comments is better done daily otherwise I find I have too much catching up to do.

I thought it important as well to throw in a bit of daily self-care – something that I should do more of but… oh well you know how it is – so I made a start by adding these to the list:-

  • Take supplements – currently my Vitamin D with my breakfast
  • Eat one apple a day – my contribution to a healthy diet and usually my mid morning snack
  • Exercises – at the moment I am following Posture Queen’s Somatic exercises to help my neck and shoulders, hips and knees.

I began my new routine in the New Year  – I switched my week on two pages diary in my planner for a page a day style, with more space I can keep a daily check list that I tick off as I go and this does help me to keep on track and stick to it.  When my routine was a bit disrupted last week with the arrival of baby X  I didn’t end up with a huge backlog of jobs as I was already on top of things.

I am really pleased – it could be working.

I am sure once my new routines are established I can add in a few more.  Getting the daily jobs done and out-of-the-way should leave me more time for the fun things in life.

 

 

 

sEAsons ~ winter is the time for home

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”
– Edith Sitwell

Ivy

RaindropsWe have had the icy cold days with a frosting of snow recently and then we had the rain… but it brought slightly milder weather with it, which has been quite welcome…today it is cold once again but very sunny.    Although I like the winter months the cold has got to my bones a bit – I must be getting older. The full force of the winter weather can be seen further afield out on the moors above us where there are wonderful and ever-changing vistas to capture – I love the bleak atmosphere that surrounds this expanse of wilderness  – there are no trees, no buildings and no people.  Even the sky can seem quite dark and foreboding at times.  Only days ago this road was closed to a heavy snowfall and ice and we had to find alternative routes on lower ground – yesterday as you see it is quite passable with only a light dusting over the hills.  The beauty of this untouched landscape is breathtaking no matter when you pass through.

Around the garden there are plenty of delightful things happening at the moment despite the weather.  I haven’t ventured outside very much but I have noticed little pockets of colour and a show of buds here and there.  Sometimes everything looks deceptively still and quiet beneath the carpet of leaves but on closer inspection there are shoots appearing and the bulbs I planted only a couple of months ago and these Snowdrops are beginning to push through the earth – a sign that spring will be here soon. Snowdrops To prevent the local cats doing their business and scratching around in the bare patches of earth where the bulbs lie beneath  I pushed a few twigs, from the hydrangea prunings,  into the ground as a deterent and to protect them and I noticed they are starting to bud and have actually taken root.  Anyone want an hydrangea there will be far to many to keep!Spring bulbsWhilst it is so cold I find the best thing to do is stay warm indoors in the kitchen making those nourishing winter comfort dishes.  Cauliflower and Broccoli Cheese bake is always a favourite here and plenty of nut roasts with root vegetables.Cauliflower Cheese bake Mushroom soupMaking plenty of soup is still on the menu too – I have found a pack each of white and chestnut mushrooms mixed together make a very quick soup for lunch – add a  leek and a stick or two of celery and a generous handful of fresh parsley for flavour…

…and use up any leftover large ripe tomatoes to make a very warming Tomato Soup with red pepper and a little carrot and a touch of paprika, run through the blender and sprinkle with a good spoonful of parmesan cheese….Tomato soupOn those days when we only have enough soup left for one we share it and I serve a mini bowl of soup with a ploughman’s lunch to use up the thick crusts of bread.For some reason I always feel January is a good month for home life and a little housekeeping – not a deep spring clean and certainly nothing too strenuous but just enough to freshen the place up once all the Christmas decorations have been taken down and packed away.

I have spent time in each room adding decorative bits and pieces and moving pictures around;  just using what I already have and switching things about.  Remember the dried oranges and limes I made at Christmas;  they have mellowed now but still add a touch of colour to these grey winter days and continue to fragrance the air. dried oranges My daughter bought me this lovely glass showcase perfect to display little bits and bobs.  I chose this lino-cut print with the red fox and the little red bird to go with my hand carved wooden robins – the bold black and white with a splash of colourful red seems quite appropriate for now.In the corner of the dining room the yellow tulips from Aldi for £1.89 are so wonderfully vibrant and cheerful – and very reasonably priced – I will certainly be visiting the store for more flowers in future as they have lasted so well.Tulips TulipsAnother small but new pleasure in my life is this desk calendar on a gold metal stand – Sadie over at Notes from an Ordinary Life introduced me to pink and I must say I am hooked – I saw this in Sainsbury’s and somehow it found its way into my trolley last week – it cost me £7 but it can be used again and again if I make and print my own calendar sheets next year when this one is finished.  I am looking forward to making my own too – I might try out some decorative stamps or lino-cuts.CalendarWe have done very little shopping so far this year as there is not very much that we need other than a new kitchen.   During the sales I got a great deal on the Neal’s Yard items – the face cream and serum I use was being offered at a discount in a gift box so not only did I get it cheaper but there is a free eye cream with it.  I also love their sturdy boxes and reuse these for all kinds of things.Mum must be getting more forgetful as for the first time in years (and I mean years) she didn’t buy me my usual slim handbag diary for Christmas so I looked for a cheap one in Poundland  – I should be able to spot this colourful one easily in my handbag – I carry one about to jot down appointment times, phone numbers or anything I need to make a note of whilst I am out (most people would probably use their phones but I am not a phone user – I still like paper – you don’t have to remember to charge it!).  Whilst out shopping I also took advantage of the reductions on Christmas cards and bought a couple of packs with 50% off to put away for next Christmas.

Staying snug and warm by the fire, watching old movies in the afternoon on the Talking Pictures channel, laughing at ‘For the Love of Ada’ – a comedy from the 70’s ,  a little reorganising and cleaning around the house, a few bright spots of colour placed here and there in each room, writing thank you notes to friends, flicking through my magazines for ideas and lots of planning for the year ahead – a pleasurable way to get through the long grey days of winter.

As Edith Sitwell says – winter is a time for home.

Baby X is now doing well – I think we are on the turn and mum and dad are easing into a routine – one with little sleep – but starting to find their feet now and feel more confident – they dealt with the problems that arose very well and deserved a medal for their perseverance – having a tiny baby relying on you for everything is especially hard when mum herself has post delivery problems that needs attention too.  Thank you for all your good wishes – it is very much appreciated.

I will be putting a tab at the top of my blog just for recipes of anything I mention here – do bear with me this may take a little time to do.

Hope you are enjoying your winter days x

dEAr dairy ~ busy times

Welcome baby X  -isn’t he so cute.

I just thought I would drop by to introduce him and write a little update of the last few days (which are slowly turning into a bit of a blur for us due to our new circumstances and some unfortunate problems arising quicker than we can cope with them and even worse a total lack of sleep – and we are only the grandparents!)

I think I left you all with the news that new baby X (still no name – no time for that) had arrived into our world and mum, dad and baby all seemed well and content.  I rushed out for a few little gifts to give to my daughter.  Buying blue is new to me – I had two girls, my cousins are girls, my sister had a girl, my SIL had two girls, one of whom has recently had a little girl and my younger daughter had two girls (Little L and Sweetie who you have met).  So having a little boy is quite a novelty and a bit of unknown territory too.  I am quickly getting used to thinking in terms of diggers rather than dolls and dinosaurs rather than fairies.

I found the little grey velour babygrow and the knitted fleece lined blanket in Primark – some of their baby clothes are quite good value.  The white one with blue teddy bears is from Mothercare.

All seemed well until the day after mum and baby arrived home then the problems surfaced.  I don’t wish to say too much here on my blog about the specific problems only that they would normally have been picked up at birth or during the hospital stay and been addressed before discharge – not major things but potentially serious if not dealt with quickly.  Now the problems are compounded due mainly to the many hospital visits in the last couple of days seeing a variety of specialist staff for further advice and treatment which has meant that baby has unavoidably been missing feeds whilst hanging around in busy corridors whilst waiting for one or both of them to be seen (all night, last night).  So now this has caused a problem in itself and baby X who was doing very well initially has not gained enough weight in the last day or so and feeding has to be every two hours now to catch up.

I am worried about my daughter as she is physically exhausted at the moment as well as emotionally drained and they are temporarily having to feed the baby by expressing her milk and giving it to the baby in a tiny cup so the whole process of feeding this way takes about two hours as it is not very easy to administer.

We have been helping out as much as we can with cooking and minding baby X whilst both mum and dad get some much-needed food and sleep (which was only a couple of hours at most between the previous three-hour feeds).

I am hoping things will start to settle down in a few days.  It has all been a bit of an ordeal which is a shame as the actual labour and birth went quite well.  Strangely enough my younger daughter who has recently had Sweetie had a totally different NHS experience in North Yorkshire where the midwives follow-up for about 6 days if needed after discharge whereas here in West Yorkshire it was one visit at home and a further hospital appointment 2 days later.  I suspect we have fewer resources living in a very overpopulated area but should it not be the case that the NHS deliver the same service everywhere?  Don’t get me wrong the midwives and other professionals have all been very good – but she has been passed around so many now with differing advice that she is feeling a little confused and everything is becoming such a blur to her because of the tiredness.  So I may be gone a few days until things calm down a bit.

Hope your weekend is a relaxing one.

Welcome to my new followers and welcome back to Lucinda – her blog is over at Lucinda Sans and well worth a read.

 

trEAsury ~ the weekly shop and meal plan

We woke up this morning to snow – just a sprinkling, and so very pretty – like icing sugar had been sifted onto our lawn, but just enough for me to change my plans and go for our weekly shop at the supermarket in town sooner rather than later.  I had my menus already planned for the week and the shopping list written so we decided to get dressed and go.  We had a few errands to do whilst in and around the town centre and this helps to conserve the petrol.

Firstly, we stopped at the African Relief Charity to offload an old mobile, that needs unlocking, and my old camera.  Both items still had all their charging leads and instruction books and they have a guy who works there who puts everything back to working order and can unlock the phone.

Then on to the Welcome Centre at the Methodist Mission Church in town.  They do a good job looking after the homeless people – providing  warm drinks and food for those on the streets and today they were particularly busy as you might expect with this cold weather.   We dropped off two sleeping bags and a quilt.  We have no need of either now we have two spare bedrooms available (complete with bedding) for any guests that might stay but I will be very pleased if someone can make use of them and it helps me to reduce our ‘stuff’ a little bit more.

After buying a large pack of toilet rolls (we were down to the very last one) and kitchen roll from Aldi (just to try them for a while as they are much cheaper than Sainsbury’s) …and a small bunch of yellow tulips to brighten my kitchen for £1.89…we headed for the town centre to buy a few bits and pieces from the whole food store; organic brown Basmati rice, a box of Spelt flakes to mix with my muesli and a bottle of Almond oil.  I use pure Almond oil as a cleanser at night – you massage a little into your face and then wipe off with a damp cotton wool pad.  It really gets rid of any grime that collects on your skin over the course of the day and make up too.  Olive oil works just as well.

Then a walk round to Boots to take advantage of the 3 for 2 offer on the cotton wool face pads I use – a saving of £1.99.  Both the Kleenex man-sized handy packs of 4 and Ecover washing up liquid on my list were also on offer in Sainsbury’s so that completed my restocking of toiletries /cleaners and paper products for a while.

We found plenty of offers at Sainsbury’s this week so we generally take advantage of them and buy more than one to last a while – hopefully until they are on offer again and if buying multipes takes us over the weekly budget then I am quite relaxed about it as I am sure it is beneficial in the long run.  This week I found Hillfarm cold pressed rapeseed oil (comes in a glass bottle which is a big plus point), red lentils, milled Flaxseeds,  Lurpack butter and the Alara brand of organic muesli that I like all on offer.  The oil for instance was £1.50 cheaper which is a huge reduction – I bought two bottles but may even go back for another.   I also found two yellow sticker foods – a double pack of Cibatta bread for £0.49p (usually £1.80) and a pack of blueberries with 50% extra for £1.34.

Buying our shopping when on offer is a real money saver for us.  I was expecting a larger bill at Sainsbury’s today as it was a larger shop than usual this week mainly because we received our monthly pension payment last Friday and our cupboards and fridge had run very low on food.

I do enjoy making meals in the winter months.  It is the season for plenty of nut roasts, pies, lentils and root vegetables.  This week’s meal plan is to use up some cashew and walnuts from Christmas in a nut roast.  It isn’t exactly a new recipe but one I haven’t made for ages and believe me I have a lot.  I will be trying out a Mushroom roast too from a recipe I have had for a long time but not yet tried.  I might switch the breadcrumbs for brown rice to cut down on the wheat.  I do like to avoid having too many wheat based products in a day and often opt for other grains like spelt or quinoa.  I will also be making ‘green’ soup and vegetable soup, carrot and leek pasties and a shepherds pie served with fresh cabbage and roast parsnips.

I am going to add a drop down on my menu bar for some of the recipes I make – this may take me a while to get it all sorted so bear with me.  I am so sorry Dar that you have waited so long for the Stroganoff!

Yesterday was a mixture of cheap and dear as far as expenses are concerned.  It is a year since I bought ‘Hetty’ my new car – so it was the annual service which keeps it in warranty and cost us £119 but this comes out of our bill account where we save a twelfth of our yearly bill costs each month so there is plenty of money in the account to cover this.

As the garage was close to the M1 we dropped off my car for the day and went on to visit Ikea in Sheffield to look further at cabinets for our new pantry.  We took our usual picnic of sandwiches and some mushroom soup and a flask of hot chocolate.   We used our Family card in Ikea to claim a further free hot drink each so all we spent was £1.25 on a portion of chips to keep us going until we could eat our picnic.  So a cheap day in other respects.

After much measuring and debating I think we now know exactly how we will fit out the pantry using a mix of Ikea’s basic kitchen cabinets and some shelving.  However, there is always a catch… before we can do the pantry we really need to rearrange the garage so that we can put a cupboard in there to house both the vacuum cleaner and the coats we use for working outdoors.  Of course before we can rearrange we need to have a sort out and I expect we will find a lot of items that can go to charity, or give away to new homes but hopefully not to landfill.

Tonight I watched the documentary program with Kate Humble on BBC 4 about the Raute people who are the very last of the nomadic community in Nepal.  They have so few possessions that they can move on to a new site miles away at a moments notice carrying them on their backs wrapped in cloths or in baskets.

As I look around at our possessions – so many fill this house we would never carry ours anywhere and it has given me that overwhelming feeling of discomfort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

dEAr diary ~ a close run thing

When I said on my blog on Thursday that we had finished the decorating at my daughter’s house and the carpets had been fitted ‘just in time’ – I never realised how ‘just in time’ this was going to be.  Baby X arrived on the scene 9 days early this morning to surprise us all.  A beautiful baby boy as yet with no name.

So I am now a proud granny of 3 grandchildren and feeling a bit exhausted at the thought.  Mum, dad and baby doing well and all of them sleeping after an eventful night and soon I will be too as I have to be up and out tomorrow to take my car in for its first service at the garage and then we will be going on to Ikea in Sheffield to look at (and possibly buy) the units for the new pantry.

I am doubly excited tonight!

fEAsible ~ what works for me

It is so grey outside but I quite like it – it feels restful and quiet – just right for a period of reflection and I find January is a good month just to ‘be’ rather than do.

Transition is my focus word for the year – a period of adjustment –  and I need to adjust some of my household routines to fit in better with my new circumstances.  So, since the start of this year I have been steadily working on a list of household tasks I need to do everyday now I am not working in order to …well keep order… and prevent a build up of clutter and chaos that can arise from letting things pile up.   You might have the same problem with little piles appearing in corners or on a table or worktop.  They tend to quietly build up over time because finding time to deal with them is often in short supply.

My starting point has been to think about what worked for me and what didn’t last year, what will I continue to do and what needs improvement or ditching altogether.  My word(s) last year were ‘The power of small’ and I did just that – some of the things were just little changes, some became major improvements and some…well I even surprised myself.

The small changes that worked for me are…
  • Making soup – I never seemed to have the time to do this regularly when I was working – now it is almost routine – and what is better than a hot bowl of soup full of winter vegetables.  We don’t have it for lunch everyday but I do freeze some and it is great to use at a moments notice for a  picnic.Tomato Soup

Winter Picnic

  • Taking picnics and flasks on our trips out – it might be shopping, or a day out or travelling but wherever we go the first thing we do now is make the picnic and fill the flasks.  DH is getting very good at this and not only is it a good money saver but we also prefer it to some of the cafe lunches we have had as the vegetarian choices can be limited.  It will be a real treat now to have a bought lunch and we can limit this to visits our favourite places that we enjoy.
  • LaundryKeeping up daily with the ironing and the finances – I make sure that I iron everything I washed the day before in the morning and this way the pile never builds up.  I did lapse at Christmas when I was busy doing advent activities but I am back on course again now as I love seeing my empty ironing basket.  I do the same entering my receipts and keeping a tally of my spending.Courgette plant
  • I grew courgettes in a large pot again this year and this time from seed – it is so easy and the results are so satisfying and they taste wonderful.  I am expanding this to grow some outdoor tomatoes this summer – I have earmarked a little space for them in the garden by the fence where they will have the most of the sunshine and shelter.
  • My Year Book – I can’t tell you how much pleasure this has given me and I have just started a new one this year.  I keep a list of my monthly intentions, notes of books I want to read, recipes I might find, decor and gardening ideas and bits and pieces of everything and anything and it is a great place to stick all my cuttings of things I might want to do.
…and the major improvements
  • this has to be focusing on the outside of the house – we took one step at a time completing one job then moved onto the next and the rendering and repointing has made such a big difference to the look of the house and cleaning the brickwork brought it back to look like new.  Once the weather is better we will continue with painting the front door, replacing the garage door and relaying the tarmac drive – but of course these are quite expensive projects so we need to make savings elsewhere.
  • Somatic Exercises – the Feldenkrais method – if you have never tried these then I can only recommend that you have a go.  Try the Posture Queen on you tube – it is the best way I know to help any posture problem like tense shoulders and general stiffness – it is so gentle it feels like you are not doing very much but the results can be felt after just one session.  They do take quite a while as taking it slowly is key and scheduling time for this is still difficult for me so I am going to make a positive effort to do some each day because it works.
and then the unexpected –
  • Our Italian holiday – I had forgotten how much I enjoyed travelling and seeing other countries and cultures.  Since we bought our little cottage the renovations took up all our time and holidays but having the wedding to go to gave us the nudge we needed to have a break from this and plan a proper holiday.
  • Leaving paid work – this was a ‘biggy’ – not exactly planned and not exactly ideal timing as I cannot draw my state pension yet but I am getting used to being at home, trying to get used to a drop in income and easily getting used to not rushing about all the time – though I can still feel guilty about that.

The little changes have almost become habit and I will add more changes to these as there are things that did not work for me last year and I will need to work on those.

More on this later…

Meanwhile a big welcome to my new followers and everyone that has left a comment recently – I love getting to know new readers and your ideas are always so helpful.  I promise I will get round to posting the recipes soon – I am sorry Dar that you have waited so long for the Stroganoff!

 

 

dEAr diary ~ just in time

This is a day of celebration – we have finally finished the decorating at our  elder daughter’s house, the new fireplace has been installed and the carpets were laid yesterday on the stairs and in the living room – it all looks wonderful – clean and bright and ready just in time for her new baby coming (due date the end of January).

A close call though.

DH and I are relaxing today after our marathon and catching up with a few household jobs ourselves.  I feel we can now concentrate on getting our new kitchen chosen, ordered and installed and fitting out the pantry which we will do ourselves.  It has been a long time coming and I just hope that nothing happens to delay our progress this time as we first started the whole new kitchen thing back in 2008 and since then it has been one crisis or drama after another that has meant our kitchen has had to be put on the back burner.   I have got to the point where I dare hardly mention the words ‘new kitchen‘ as I don’t wish to tempt fate.This room currently known as the dumping ground will be our new pantry – it is the old downstairs cloakroom and toilet which we never used very much – we have only capped off the drains and water supply not removed them entirely so it could be turned back at some time in the future.  As you can see not a pretty sight – though some of these boxes are actually my daughter’s belongings and some items can go back into the new shed.  Thank goodness I have been able to just shut the door on all this – but now I have the chance to get it sorted – starting tomorrow.  Maybe.

This morning I washed some of my daughter’s throws that I brought home with me to lessen her load and got them out on the line.   She is washing her baby clothes to prepare them which is much more exciting so  I also volunteered to wash all the dust sheets for her but they will have to wait for a dry windy day.

For lunch I made another batch of tomato soup and for tea we had an old favourite using leeks – Cheesy Leek ramekins (which will do two meals) and tonight will be served with a winter salad.   It is so much easier having a menu plan and I find this way we have far less waste and don’t over buy with the shopping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

trEAsury ~ a review of 2018’s spending

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

We should be happy then as we didn’t exceed our income but I always feel I could do better.  I knew it would not be a pretty picture when I ran this years accounts report  – and it did disappoint a little when I read the final figures as I had tried quite hard and even managed to get DH on board with being slightly more spending aware on the grocery shopping now he is helping me to do it.  I was hoping for better figures though and some bigger savings.

It wasn’t all bad –  we did make some enormous savings  –

I only bought 2 lunches at work whilst I was still working at a cost of £7.40 the rest I made at home which gave us a big saving although you have to factor in buying extra bread and salad to make them.

We also cut down on our grocery shopping by sticking to a menu plan as far as possible, buying items only on offer and looking out for yellow sticker food; but at the same time we have been battling ever-increasing prices so we seem to be running to stand still – overall though we came in under the last two previous years totals.  As frequent readers may know we are vegetarian which helps (although fruit, vegetables and nuts are not the cheapest of foods these days) and eat organic foods where possible which is always dearer – but we would not compromise on this even to buy cheaper food as I totally believe in organic farming methods as a sustainable and healthy way of life.

Christmas came in at £400 which is much the same as previous years now that we do a Secret Santa within the extended family.  Each person spends £50 on a gift so our spend is a £100 for the both of us.  The rest of the £300 is made up of presents for the children in the family – any grandchildren, nieces and nephews who are still in full-time education are not part of the Secret Santa and we buy as normal for them (in our case it is now 4 little ones), a few small presents for our closest friends, a small hamper of goodies for my mum, a present to each other and a few bits for our two daughters, the Xmas tree and any new decorations, postage, cards and wrappings – in fact anything to do with Christmas other than the food and drink.

I repurposed a lot of unwanted gifts and hope no-one received something back that they had given to me – I do think I managed to match the gifts to a person quite well and it did shave a good £50 off the gift budget.

We made a profit of £478 on our eBay sales and gained a lot of space in the house.  We still have items to sell so as soon as I have another offer from eBay for capped final fees and free listings I will be selling again.

Our savings have generated a nice passive income which is hard in this low interest environment.  We had a few good fixed deals that will end soon but as I am not working and paying tax I will be able to look at reinvesting in any savings account not just ISA accounts.

However, not everything was a win –

One area which is our biggest expense of any month is fuel.  We have been up and down both the A1M /A19 to North Yorkshire and the M6 to Scotland many times and it takes about a tank of petrol depending on whether we go far once we have reached our destination – I am not sure how I can reduce this cost as I need to see my mum regularly to relieve my sister a little bit and also I do like to see the grandchildren as often as we can.  Mum used to come down by train and we would run her back but now she cannot cope on the train with the crowds and her luggage so we have to go and pick her up – a round trip of 180 miles.   Rising petrol costs (in our case diesel) is really starting to eat into the monthly state pension and probably uses about a third of the £164 a week we receive in a bad week.  I can’t see any way around this though.

We had some other very significant costs this year – the maintenance on the house – repointing and rendering is not a cheap job and not something we could have done ourselves.  Looking to the future though this maintenance work will have added value to our property and it is a whole lot warmer and drier inside now too.

Alongside the house maintenance we also had to replace our shed before it fell apart on its own.  As we had to move it out of the way to allow the contractors access to the walls it seemed like a good time to ditch it and buy a new one.  The difference in price though was quite marked as we only paid £99 for the old shed back in the nineties this time round it was nearer to £400 although it is far better made and uses preserved timber.

Our other major cost last year was one that I don’t regret and that was for our trip to Italy and Venice for our niece’s wedding.  We had the most wonderful time and the memories will always be with us.  Because the wedding location was off the beaten track and we travelled around it is a much dearer way of having a holiday than a package tour but much more enjoyable as I am not one for sitting around a pool all day.  What a good job I was still working though to cover the costs.

Our clothing and footwear bill would have been lower had we not gone to Italy but the summer clothes we bought will last us a while and now I am not working and won’t be needing clothes for work a clothing budget of £200 should more than see us through this year.

We are currently reviewing all our bills to see if there are any that would benefit from switching – switching is such a hassle – who invented switching? – someone with heaps of time on their hands and a degree in gas and electricity units terminology.

DH has a phone contract of £7.50 a month, mine is still a PAYG and cost me £30 last year – the dearest year ever!  I do need to find a cheap contract from Vodaphone (the only reliable network for the cottage area in Scotland) but each time I try to buy a cheaper deal using uSwitch it doesn’t connect through.

The biggest savings to be made in our budget have to be:-

  • the No Spend Days  – we are having many more of these now we are both at home.
  • taking drinks and picnics whenever we go out
  • being able to get by with casual clothes – or better still not buying any for a season
  • passing unwanted gifts on
  • making my own cards
  • planning a menu each week before doing the grocery shopping
  • cooking once but making a meal for two nights
  • using up all the food in the fridge once a week to avoid food waste
  • buying toiletries only on offer
  • constantly checking for better deals with electricity and gas companies
  • avoiding the magazine aisles in the supermarket
  • Sainsbury’s double up Nectar reward points week

At least the day to day housekeeping and groceries are reducing I just need to find ways of lowering our other outgoings further such as insurance and utilities bills whilst trying to fight against rising costs.  Even if by the end of this year we find we have only stood still it is better than an increase or overspending.

We still have some major outlays for the house maintenance – outside we need a new garage and front door and the driveway resurfacing.  Inside we need a new kitchen before we can continue with the redecorating of the remaining rooms in the house.  I don’t mind these costs quite so much as it is all adding value whereas paying for phone calls, heating and insurance, although necessary, doesn’t really feel value for money.

I have ideas though to get us through this year which I will talk about another time.  Of course the house maintenance, new kitchen, decorating and any capital costs will come out of our savings but our general living costs will be covered by our meagre income of one state pension – mainly because I am interested to see how possible it is to live on one state pension and what kind of lifestyle we would have if this is all the money we had coming in.  We do have a small private pension to back us up should we need it but for the experiment this will be out of bounds.

Phew, I am a bit exhausted now and need to go for a lie down – at least that won’t cost me anything and if I do it in a darkened room I will save on electricity LOL!

Back soon x

 

 

 

 

 

dEAr diary ~ has Elton saved John Lewis?

Their sales increased over the Christmas period according to the latest news.

Although I do like to shop at John Lewis if I can afford to sadly it wasn’t down to me;  but I am pleased this might mean they will not go under – not yet anyway.

Meanwhile Debenhams and M&S are still struggling with decreased sales.

If in fact Elton has been instrumental in helping John Lewis through a bad patch perhaps someone might persuade him to take over the Brexit talks after all we don’t seem to be getting anywhere with them at the moment.

A lady interviewed on the lunchtime news (from Barclaycard I think) said that they were looking at how they can get customer confidence back to spend more on the high street by introducing memorable ‘instagram’ moments through experiences whilst shopping.  As an example she said such things as free coffees and Yoga mornings.  I smiled thinking of my aging mum doing Yoga whilst shopping and then perhaps taking a selfie – not that she isn’t active still but I think when she needs a new dress she might just want to go and choose one without having to contort herself in the process!

I wonder too at the necessity to make the whole of life an instagram moment.

I don’t often mention the news but I am feeling more and more concerned over the things that I am hearing and the messages we are receiving through the media.   Maybe the reason sales are down is just that people don’t want to buy so much stuff any longer or perhaps don’t have the means to keep on spending with prices rising on food and the basic essentials.

We seem to have got into a catch 22 situation now where we have to keep spending to keep everyone in a job. That is quite a burden for me as I don’t actually want to keep buying stuff any more – nor do I want to buy into these ‘experiences’ either – I can find my own by just having a walk along the seashore or a picnic in the country.

It has seemed quite strange not going back to work after Christmas but it is nice to have more time now to plan out the year ahead and set new goals. I will get back to chatting about my progress tomorrow. x