dear diary >> improving

The weather is certainly improving as I write this post but it is not the topic I am about to talk about. Regular readers might remember my chosen focus word for this year is improvement. I have really taken the word on board and somehow it seems much more manageable than words that I have chosen in the past and then, like a New Year’s resolution, sadly neglected., I am quite excited and committed to this word already.

My idea is to consistently make the tiniest and simplest of improvements across all the different areas of my life and each one, no matter how small or how insignificant, will be an improvement on what I had before.

So here are a few improvements that I have been working on this week:-

The treasury – I am sure that, like many readers and bloggers, costcutting is at the top of everyone’s agenda. With prices rising sharply and the £1 in our pockets buying so much less it is becomming a matter of urgency that I both curb our spending and look where I can to make savings. Big savings.

Smartshop (Sainsbury’s scanner shopping), offers good discounts for nectar card holders using the hand held scanner (this is not the same as the individual self scan checkouts). DH collects up these offers (whilst I do the main shopping that we take to the normal checkout); first he goes and finds the items that are reduced on my card and goes around again to find the ones on his card – although it is the same nectar account the card numbers end in a different number and we are sent different offers. Here is the receipt from last week – we took advantage of 8 offers on my nectar card, the actual price an ordinary shopper would pay by going through the manned checkout would have been £18.70.

We paid £13.28 by using the scanner – a huge saving of £5.42 for items we would be buying anyway, plus we collect the nectar points on top some of which have extra points. The muesli alone had a saving of £1.05 per box so we bought three boxes to stock up.

I have had a flurry of coupons recently too – some more useful than others. The M&S coupons for £7 being the most worthwhile and their offer of a free bar of chocolate a bonus.

In the post on Saturday arrived a letter from Dobbies to say they have given me a free upgrade to their Dobbies Plus card for one year. This entitles me to a free cup of tea and coffee each month, 10% off all plants, bulbs and seeds, a special birthday treat and 2 points for every £1 spent. Normally you pay £12 for the year to have this card – I wouldn’t pay to have it but I have no objection to it being free for the moment. Every little helps if it avoids paying full price for anything.

Of course the biggest challenge is to avoid temptation and not buy anything we don’t really need. Going to the shops less is a good way of avoiding tempatation!

Meal planning – one improvement I am making in the kitchen is to adjust my winter menus so that I make more meals that can be cooked on the hob such as lentil stew, curry, chickpea and rice – this way I don’t have the oven on as often which will hopefully reduce the electricity bills. I do like baked potatoes in the winter (well anytime really) so at the weekend with some potatoes baking in the oven I made a batch of pastry and baked a selection of quiche bases for the freezer whilst the oven was on. Today we had ratatouille and baked potatoes and again whilst the potatoes were baking I made a batch of chocolate sponge mixture and filled four sandwich tins. They are all in the freezer now and I feel quite pleased with myself for making the effort.

Health – such an important area of my life now as I am heading towards another major birthday (still a couple of years to go yet).

It often feels like an uphill struggle to keep relatively healthy as creaks and groans appear daily and the inevitable sagging has set in – so I need all the help I can get. Adding a little more nutritional value to my diet without resorting to buying expensive supplements is hopefully going to improve my health – so I was delighted to find these packets of milled mixed seeds and nuts in Sainsbury’s containing ground Flaxseeds, Sunflower Seeds, Walnuts (13%), Pumpkin Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Almonds (10%), Chia Seeds providing Vitamin E, Fibre and Omega 3. I sprinkle a good two dessertspoonfuls of the mix over my bowl of spelt flakes each morning, but you can use it on pasta or crumbles to make a crunchy topping. An instant easy healthy improvement.

Housekeeping – I have a few spots around the house that need just a little bit of love and attention. Nothing major, just a tiny adjustment – a task that may only take me minutes to complete. I am searching them out and one by one will be addressing each issue. It might be a messy drawer or a plant that needs reviving or an item that needs to be kept in a better place.

Today it was this hand sanitiser in the bathroom. Since the pandemic this bottle of Carex handgel has stood on our bathroom shelf for use both by us and visitors alike. It has always bothered me since the day it took up residence – a rather unattractive plastic bottle and not one I really want on show. I noticed in Tesco they were still selling these little soap dispensers at £4, I bought a couple when we first got the caravan for handsoap. So now I have poured the hand sanitiser into the new container and voila such an immediate improvement.

In the garden – the outside is another area that often needs a bit of attention. The long trough at the front of our house was looking a bit dull since the pansies all keeled over and lost the will to live. So for a few pounds in the sale at the local garden centre I bought 3 lovely cyclamen in pots for a splash of winter colour (I have left them in the pots and sunk them into the compost) so they will lift out easily when I want to replace them with some spring bulbs.

A large tray of lemon polyanthus was on sale too and I have dotted these about the garden and put a few in the tub beside the front door. Another of my little improvements.

Tomorrow we are looking to collect the new dining table from Leeds, weather permitting. The new table will be a big improvement to the kitchen.

Have a good day everyone x

16 thoughts on “dear diary >> improving

  1. The rising prices are a challenge, aren’t they? I try to make the garden as productive as possible in fruit and veg, and in fact we are drowning in apples this year. If I could send you some I would! But I think I’ll need to concentrate my physical and financial efforts this year on reclaiming more ground to turn into veg plots, to really extend what we grow as well as having flowers too. A bit of sacrifice this year for “improvement” next year. I like your word of the year!
    We have given up regular eating of breakfast cereal, as in the first lockdown I got a 25kg bag (a sturdy paper sack) of oatmeal from a local fruit and veg wholesaler – they deliver for free. We’ve liked it so much that we’ve continued. It works out much cheaper than small packs of breakfast cereal, and I like it that the oats are grown in north east Scotland where we live, and that it’s buying from a local company. Of course you have to cook the porridge, but I often eat overnight oats. I eat a lot of seeds and nuts for protein, and order them in bulk from two companies: Buy Wholefoods Online, and Sussex Wholefoods. The large packs work out much cheaper per kilo than the wee packs in supermarkets. There are also constant offers of a free kilo of something for orders over £60, so I save up my bulk buys to take advantage of these. Hope these might be helpful ideas!

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    1. I am always interested in your ideas and they are helpful thank you. Unfortunately, I am not a porridge fan – though I do eat muesli sometimes. I prefer the crunchy spelt flakes but they are not cheap – I have never looked into getting them in bulk. I might check out the nuts and seeds bulk buys though but it is only me eats them so would not want to have a huge amount to wade through as nuts do go rancid after a while.
      We have very little room to expand what we grow here in our garden at home and last year we had a big problem when we had hot dry spells and they coincided with us going to Scotland for three weeks at a time – we came home to find potatoes and other veg keeled over with lack of water even though a neighbour was looking after them. So this year we may have to cut down on what we grow – not ideal but we lost such a lot that we had the expense of buying things in on top of the layout of growing our own. I have just got my seed potatoes to have another go but have no idea where I will put them as I have no beds to rotate them to in the ground this year. Putting them into a sack/bag/pot is OK but then we would hit the watering problem again when we go away and we are away such a lot.

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    1. When they first introduced the scanner system we gave it a go – the appeal being that you put your items straight into the shopping bags as you scan and then at the end you pay for what you have scanned, take your bags and go. Easy you may think….well no it never worked for us – there were problems each time, scanner failing to scan, price differences between the price on the ticket and what came on the screen, prices not coming up on the scanner so an assistant had to be found and the final straw when the whole trolley of shopping had to be rescanned…so we gave up on it and went back to checkout shopping as normal. The discounts offered are too good to miss (about 10 each week for us on each nectar card) so DH collects these up with the scanner whilst I do the rest of the shopping normally and then find a manned checkout to pay. It is a bit of faffing around but we have the time to faff especially as it is a good saving.

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  2. Interesting that the self-scanner in your grocers gives a bit of a discount. Not the case in the US. No price difference even with loyalty card. They are trying so hard to do away with cashier positions that I always use them rather than the self checkout, even if it means a bit of a line and wait. I give the manager a stern look or two and another cashier usually appears. You also need to keep an eye on the size/weight of products these days–the other day I noticed that a package of cheese that used to be 8oz is now only 7oz…and the price went up! Or you open a box of product that is the same size as always and find that it is only half filled–again, reduced weight.

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  3. I think that ‘improvement’ is a really good word to aim for. Even the smallest changes can make such a difference, lift our mood and make life run a little bit smoother. I’m all for that.

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  4. I think you’ve chosen a fabulous word as it’s one where you can have lots of little ‘wins’ which will all certainly add up. You’ve inspired me to get cracking so thank you 😀

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  5. I too buy in bulk, but I get that storage can be a problem. I have a Suma account and also buy from Wholefoods online, we also have one of those shops, locally, where you take your own containers in and fill them which is good for those things that you don’t want to buy in bulk as they will go off.

    I have been maximising the use of the oven when it is on too. I have been baking, making granola and bread this week. I am trying to make sure the oven is in use on evenings when I have the time to make the most of it being on. It is rarely not full these days, they are all things that I would be making anyway so it is just about being more organised isn’t it.

    I use the Smartshop scanner in Sainsburys too, I don’t buy a lot in there as I try to support local shops for as much as possible. I am enjoying the offers they have on, I need to make sure I look them up before I go shopping though! We save our points during the year for our Christmas shop, we had a good amount by the end of last year.

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    1. It is very a much a case of every little helps – every time i go to buy something I haven’t bought for a while I find it has gone up in price or gone down in weight! As you say it is about being organised and sometimes we don’t always have the time. I wonder how long Sainsbury’s will have the Smartshop scanner offers for – it is obviously to attract more shoppers to use it?

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