Friday 31 March 2023

March Spending


I can't believe it's the end of March already and I've been off work for a couple of weeks now.  Yesterday was the first day I've actually felt physically well 😊 but I'm still in no rush to go back.  I've made an appt with the mental health practitioner at my GP surgery but it's not for another 2 weeks.  My colleagues sent me flowers and chocolates to say they were thinking about me.  Schools break up today for the Easter holiday.  I have a wee group chat with my work besties and this morning they all said they hate work right now.  Something is very wrong when good teachers say they hate their job 😞

Even though I've been at home most of the month (actually had time to bake a fruit loaf!) it's been a bit of a spendy one.

My March supermarket total was £207.96!  YIKES!! I did stock up on freezer items (veggies etc) and meat.  Some of it was cold/flu stuff plus many pouches of fruit pastilles as they soothed my sore throat and Lemsip type hot drink sachets. Even going for own brand medicines, it quickly adds up!  I also did a 'poor me' shop where I got a few ready made snacks 😳

My pet total of £139.08 was higher this month as Emma had a vet checkup because she's on daily steroids.  She'll need a 4 monthly checkup from now on.

My Amazon spend was lower at £91.64 which was a few DIY items.

And my miscellaneous 'other' spending was only £42.38.

Total for March £481.06

When I started my 4 year challenge the aim was to keep my spending under £500 so I guess I'm still on track. Selling the flat and incurring so many out of the ordinary costs has skewed my savings plan.  Although I did put my flat deposit money back into my savings.  I need to have a good think about how I progress now that my retirement is imminent! 

It's time to start off my seedlings so here's some tomatoes (Roma and Aurora) already up.  Plus there's some squash, sweetcorn and courgettes still propagating!

I've also started off my red onion sets in cells so that when they're planted it's harder for the birds to pull them out!!

The clocks going forward last weekend really knocked me for six again (bit like jet lag which is pretty common apparently) but it does feel a bit more Spring like here despite the rainy weather! ☔

Edited to add fruit loaf recipe so I can find it again as I donated that cookbook!!

Soak overnight:  350g mixed dried fruit, 30g brown sugar, 150ml hot strong tea, glug of whisky        Mix: 2 large eggs and 50ml water or milk and add to fruit mixture with 1 grated apple                          Sieve 225g of SR flour with 1 tsp mixed spice and add to mixture                                                      Bake in lined loaf tin for 1 hour at 170C or 150C fan or Gas 3

Friday 24 March 2023

Ready to grow


I got out my seed tins from last year so I could do a wee audit.  I was ill at planting time last year so didn't sow as many as usual.  I got the tins out (old Sarah Raven collection ones) and went away to look out my heated propagator.  When I got back the washing machine had done it's final spin and had travelled out from under the worktop.  It's never been the same since the joiner who fitted my utility room moved it and then used it as his workbench!! 🙄 It's only 2 years old and it now makes a squeaky noise when spinning.  I'm hoping when I get my new floor fitted it will be level again and might work properly again.

I washed out all my propagator trays and some other bits n bobs.  I got some biodegradable sowing cells too.  I've got potatoes chitting in egg boxes.  In other words, I'm ready to get started!  In Scotland our growing season is shorter as we still get frost right into May where I live.  But now is a good time to get ready!

I spoke to the triage nurse at my doctor's practice this morning and I'm officially signed off work until the 18th of April.  She was lovely and supportive and said I would be able to easily renew my Fit Note after the 18th.  She also offered me counselling at the surgery but I said I didn't need it at the moment.  I'm not ruling it out, just don't need it right now. 

I'm still coughing a lot and have a sniffly nose so I'm still not quite right physically.  It's been very wet here so no gardening yet.  I'm binge watching The Handmaid's Tale from the start again and pottering about the house doing wee projects.  One of which needs bright pink chalk paint and another needs gilding wax! 😉

Thursday 23 March 2023

Birthday presents


Isn't it funny how your presents change as you get older and wiser?  I always say don't get me anything as I genuinely don't need anything.  But I think because I'm not well and off work, my work besties came to visit me and brought flowers, Prosecco and this beautiful picture.  It's my allotment!! You can see Old Stirling Bridge and the Wallace Monument plus the rugby club.  It's just fabulous!  My friend J loves to draw and paint.  She made this for me because she knows how much I love my allotment! 💕

My Lovely Mum gave me potting compost and money to buy top soil and compost in bulk for the garden and the plot.  She also got me a subscription to Kitchen Garden magazine HERE.  You can get it digitally but the actual magazine comes with seeds and gifts every month.  It's one of my favourites and a real treat 😊

I absolutely love my presents, they all have a garden theme!  I'm a very lucky girl! 💕

Wednesday 22 March 2023

Older and wiser??


I'm 57 today!! 🎂 Another year older and wiser??  Nope 😂  Still feel like I'm in my 30s although my body is telling me otherwise.  Number 1 priority now and when I retire is to get my health and fitness back up to where it was pre pandemic.  I remember fondly (!) the days where I could do a full day's work and then come home to go to the gym and workout for 2 hours.  Or go cycling/walking all day on a Saturday.

On reflection, I've spent the last year (since I got Covid) going to work then coming home to recover.  And by recover I mean doing NOTHING in the evenings or at weekends except to prepare for going back to work.  Holidays were spent recovering and catching up on dr and dentist appts, sorting out admin that could only be done in person.  

I'm really looking forward to getting even better!! 

Saturday 18 March 2023

Teacher burnout

I took the decision and informed my Headteacher yesterday that I wouldn't be back in school any time soon.  I do still have the cough/chest infection but said when I see my GP for a Fit Note (sick line) next week, I will be citing work related stress.  I'm still incredulous that it's taken 2 teachers at the same time to replace me in my classroom and that will count in my favour when it comes to talking to HR!!

I've had so many lovely messages from my colleagues all wishing me well and saying I'm doing the right thing.  They've seen me struggling for months and aren't in the least bit surprised.  I've said I'm not hiding away and will be spending my time (once this fecking cough has gone!!) in my garden and at the allotment.  And I'll take as long as it takes to feel properly well again.

The above quote is from a book called "The Teachers" by Alexandra Robbins.  It's about the American school system but the findings apply to teachers worldwide. Teacher burnout post pandemic is very real and it's not their fault.

Thursday 16 March 2023

Inevitable I guess


I guess it was inevitable that after going back to work last week while not 100% meant I crashed and burned.  Yep, I have a secondary chest infection (history repeating itself) and I'm off work.  And I have a feeling I'll not be back.  It seems that my work besties and my family have all been concerned about me for a while.  I'm burnt out and exhausted.  They're all advising me to get signed off long term and just retire at the Summer as planned.  It's tempting.  I laughed (hollowly) yesterday when I found out it took 2 experienced teachers to team teach my class.  And they had my SLA most of the day too.  3 adults for 15 kids.  That sums it up nicely I think.

Anyone been watching Jamie's £1 Wonders?  It seems people love him or hate him and he gets a lot of unnecessary (in my opinion) abuse.  From what I've read the criticism comes from folk who don't understand that it's under £1 per portion by clever buying and cooking in bulk.  Of course we frugallers already know how to make meals on a low budget but I'm always open to new ideas.  On Sunday I made his savoury pancake bake which is layers of crepe style pancakes with a cheesy sauce with frozen spinach through it.  His version had cooked ham as well but I made it veggie/dairy and gluten free and served it with chorizo on the side as that's what I had in the freezer. It was absolutely delicious and the leftovers reheated nicely for lunch next day.  I can't find a link to the recipe but you can sign up for all his recipes (free) HERE 😋

Saturday 11 March 2023



Finally at 16.53 yesterday (7 minutes before my lawyer's office closed) the flat sale finally went through and the money was transferred into my account.  I got back more or less the same amount of money I paid as the deposit so I'm happy with that.  But I have paid a few thousand in legal and estate agent fees.  I'm just relieved that part 1 of my 'grand plan' to retire is complete.  Now on to planning the next stages.

In other news I've not been well this week and took 3 days off work.  I definitely had/have some sort of virus as I've had a pounding headache with a high temperature and been alternating being freezing cold and boiling hot!!  I had a few days in bed and then stupidly went back to work on Thursday  When will I learn?? 🙄

Folk at work were happy that the teacher's pay claim in Scotland has been resolved.  It looks a good deal on paper, 13.5% but that's back dated to last April and spread out over 28 months.  It's not 13.5% all at once.  And in 2 years time teachers will be back to the same position of negotiating the next pay rise.  I'm glad I'll be out of it.

Thankfully this week I was able to just pull something quick and nutritious out the freezer as cooking when you're not well is off the agenda.  I took a photo of my tubs in the freezer as it was very satisfying to see them all 😊 Saved me time and money as no takeaways were required!

Thursday 2 March 2023

Filling the freezer!


I popped into Waitrose after dropping my son off at work on Tuesday night.  I didn't have high hopes (weather was good all day and it was still light) and there really wasn't much in the usual reduced fridge,. However, I spent some time wandering round and had a good look at everything.  And I found reduced chicken drumsticks (16 for £2.35), 2 packs of stewing steak (2 x 400g for £2.59 each) and Kettle crisps!  

I cooked the beef in the crockpot with a ton of veg and added some of the M&S sausages to stretch it even further.  I also used the crockpot to cook the drumsticks and then stripped all the meat off.  I've saved and frozen the bones to make stock for soup at the weekend.

Then yesterday I got a big (ish) Sainsbury's delivery where I chose 1kg of 5% fat minced beef for £5.25 as my main meat of the month.  I cooked it in my big pan with grated carrots, onions and red lentils.  I deliberately seasoned it lightly so I can use it for cottage pie or spaghetti bolognaise etc by just adding flavourings.

I ended up with 20 individual servings of cooked minced beef, sausages in gravy, cooked chicken and beef stew to put in the freezer. Plus what I ate for tea last night and tonight.  This way of batch cooking seems to work better for me as I can pull out a tub when I come in from work and reheat it in the microwave.  Rice or pasta and frozen veg only take 10 mins to cook so I have a healthy meal ready quickly 😋  

I had to buy more of these tubs with the blue lids as I was running out of usable ones.  They have a wee steam vent perfect for microwave cooking!  They cost £15.99 for 10 on Amazon.  I've bought these ones before and they last for a few years before getting a bit cracked.  I just chuck them in the dishwasher but maybe if I carefully hand washed them they'd last even longer!!  Plus they can be recycled in my blue bin when I'm done with them 😊

The total meat cost was £12.78 for 22 servings (sausages were free with my vouchers.)  That means each tub has about 58p worth of meat!  The other ingredients (carrots/onion/lentils/seasoning) probably add another 15p.  Still well under £1 per tub! 😊

I'm going to whisper this news as I don't want to jinx it but I have a new entry date on the flat.  March 10th which is next week.  No reason given as to why they didn't complete on the 28th as agreed 🙄 Fingers crossed this date sticks! 🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞