Friday 29 September 2023

Pension day!


When I was growing up you had to go to the Post Office with your pension book (or Family Allowance book) every week to collect your pension in cash.  Where I lived it was a Thursday and there would be a queue of OAPs (including my Gran) standing outside before 9am waiting for it to open.  Then they'd take that hard cash and go to the Co op supermarket, butcher and greengrocer to get their weekly supplies.  My Gran would famously visit every shop to get the best price on everything.  She never bought everything in one place.

All this to say I got my first pension payment this morning.  Electronically paid into my online account and I was notified by text.  I did have a mild panic when the text said a much smaller amount than I was expecting.  But I get 3 separate payments from the 3 different schemes that I paid into over 35 years 🙄 so I only got 1 text instead of 3.  I checked my account and it's all there! Phew!!  Grand total of £729.14 a month.  It doesn't cover all my expenses (car payments/car insurance/council tax) so I'm relying on my savings to pay those until I sell the house and pay off the car next year.  But reality has now set in! 😱

My dear Gin Queen friend was 60 last week so I splurged and got her a very special gin that has her name on it!  I hope it's a good one!! 🍸 From now on presents will be small and hopefully hand made.  

And my last internet spend for a while (possibly ever!!) was some sock yarn!  I like to have socks on the needles as a pick up and drop activity for Winter.  Someone will get a pair for Christmas and there will be some lovely new colours to add to my leftover sock yarn blanket.

Thank you so much for the good wishes for my Lovely Mum.  I spoke to her last night and she's doing well.  She might get home tomorrow (Saturday) and I'll hopefully be able to go visit her soon 😊

Thursday 28 September 2023

No spend October?


I finally did a thorough inventory of the freezer in the garage!  I thought it would take me about 10 mins.  Nope, a full half an hour but it's totally sorted out now.  I've put 'like' things into carrier bags to make them easier to find.  As expected there's a lot of food in there!!  For example 17 mugs of soup!! 😱 Plenty of lunches sorted then!

I've worked out I have at least 20 meals' worth of meat or fish as the main protein.  I have tons of veggies and plenty of fruit.  I have a fairly well stocked storcupboard.  Could I do a no spend October?  I've checked all my non food essentials too and I think I could.  So, there's my challenge.  No spending in the supermarket unless it's an 'emergency!'  Never done a no spend at all before so this could be interesting!

I found some mashed potatoes in the freezer so made some potato scones.  I've been having them with a fried egg for my breakfasts these last few days.  I still have some of the red Desiree potatoes stored in the garage so they'll be good for next month's meals.

I ordered some seeds from Real Seeds.  They came yesterday.  Even this early I couldn't get some of the varieties I wanted.  I really like this company as they actively encourage you to save your own seed.  They also do low/no wage packs so growing food is accessible for everyone.  I think it's done on trust, you don't have to prove your income.   I'm going to try growing their quinoa on the plot next year.  If you check out Toni's post on Simple Frugal Life, she grew some successfully this year.  I thought it was worth a shot!

Today I'll be mostly keeping myself busy painting bits and pieces in the kitchen as my Lovely Mum is having fairly major surgery.  Interestingly, it's being done by robot!!! 🤖  Don't know if this is good progress in medicine or not!  We'll see how it turns out!  If you can send some positive thoughts her way today for a safe procedure and a quick recovery that would be greatly appreciated 💖

Friday 22 September 2023

Say aye tae a pie!


I made a pie using some of the turkey meat and some home grown veggies.  I think it might have been the best pie I've ever made!!  The pastry was made with half lard and half home made butter!  It was flipping delicious!!! 😋 It made 4 hearty and cheap portions.

I served it with some home grown sweetcorn.  The cobs weren't fully formed so I guess they weren't properly pollenated.  But they did taste lovely and sweet!

I had a few small potatoes lurking in the veg basket (my Maris Peer from the plot) so I grated them and mixed them with finely chopped onion (also from the plot) and made a large rosti style potato cake.  I've made smaller ones before and they were much crispier but this one was good too.

Today's been a day of 'getting things done'  in my countdown to putting the house on the market.  I've got someone coming to look at the external walls on the extension part of my house.  This is the side door into my utility room (we use this door all the time) and the window is my shower room.  The roughcasting was so badly done it literally started falling off in chunks!!  I've been let down by 3 different roughcasters who were supposed to come and repair the damaged walls.  One even removed all the loose stuff and left the grey bricks exposed.  It's been like this for 2 years.  I don't mind if trades folk can't/don't want to do a job, just tell me.  One even left a load of equipment (including a cement mixer!!) in my front garden for 6 months then it disappeared over night after several calls to ask when he was going to start!!

I've also been painting the window in my craft room and have got all my wallpapering stuff ready to get started.  I just need puppy sitters to let me get on with it now!! 

Wednesday 20 September 2023

Pension news at last!


I finally got the details of my pension!  Hooray!!  I can now get planning for each month and I'll try not to dip into my savings.  As expected it's less than £9,000 a year.  It keeps me under the limit for paying tax so that's a bonus.  I also get a single lump sum of just under £10,000 which I'll use to pay off my car next year.  They're not huge sums of money to live on but totally doable with effort.  I'm not entitled to any benefits until I reach the UK pension age, which is 67 for me.  As I live in Scotland I get free prescriptions, free eye tests and cheaper dental check ups any way.  I'll get a free bus pass at 60.  Honestly, I'm feeling so relieved this morning as I can now just  'get on with it!'

I popped into Morrisons yesterday as it's good to change up supermarkets every now and then.  I got a  whole turkey leg (1.6kg) for £5,39!  I slow cooked the thigh and roasted the drumstick as it couldn't fit in the slow cooker!!  Overnight I made 2 lots of stock to make 2 large pots of soup this morning.  My usual chicken/turkey and rice and a potato and leek one as I found a bag of leeks lurking at the bottom of my freezer.  Once cooled, I'll portion them up to freeze.  

I'll come back later to note how many mugs they make! Edit: 14 portions!

There's loads of turkey meat to make some pies and maybe a curry if I feel in the mood 😋

Tuesday 19 September 2023



Finally, Luna was allowed to go out for a walk!!! HOORAY!!!!!!!  She was a bit overwhelmed with all the noises and her wee back legs were shaking.  But it was just 10 mins and this is her 10 mins after we got back home!! 😂  She can have a 15 mins walk 3 times a day.  Rule of thumb is 5 mins for each month of her age.  She's 14 weeks now and absolutely ready to be out in the big wide world!

I had about half of the sourdough loaf left and some eggs that needed using up.

So I made French toast/eggy bread!

Out of curiousity after Sue (A Smaller and Simpler Life) posted about Heinz baked beans on her blog, I weighed mine when I opened a can yesterday.  Mine were also short of the 415g weight.  When you think of how many cans Heinz sell that's a lot of underselling going on!!  Check yours next time!!!!

Monday 18 September 2023

Stressful week


Eurgh!!  It's been a stressful week.  Luna is still testing positive for giardia so she's had another course of treatment.  She's 'clinically well' so was able to get her vaccinations and is allowed out on restricted walks from tomorrow.  She's 14 weeks old now and frankly stir crazy, as am I!!  She still has to be kept separate from Emma in case they reinfect each other so poor Emma is rather stressed too.  And both my son and I have had a serious D&V bug (giardia possibly so we're getting tested too!!)  So yeah, it's not been fun round here.  Fingers crossed we're getting to the end now.

I managed a quick pop down to the allotment to find a rugby ball from the club next door has smashed a window.  New perspex has been ordered but I need to see if they'll reimburse me for it.  I know it was a rugby ball as I have it in my shed as evidence!!!

I harvested the last of the cucumbers in the polytunnel.

And made bread and butter pickles! 😋

The last of the Roma tomatoes ripened so I made tomato and onion sauce for the freezer.

The 1.5kg bags of organic flour were on offer in Waitrose at the same price as Tesco's 1kg bags so I got 2 for the storecupboard.

I made another sourdough loaf, they're improving!

I bought a 600ml carton of double cream and made butter.  Not on offer but still cheaper at £2.30 than a 250g block of butter plus I got buttermilk to make scones.

And someone has learned how to jump up on the chair in my craft room!  I'm at the stage where I don't care how and where she sleeps (I know I'm making a rod for my own back!!) as long as she sleeps because an over tired cranky puppy is a nightmare!

Saturday 9 September 2023

Doubling down on no/low spending!


Unfortunately despite doing really well, Luna didn't get signed off by the vet school as her liver enzymes are still a bit high.  She's to take a liver support supplement for the next month and they'll do more blood tests.  So a bit more expense!  And I finally heard back from my pet insurance who said they can't pay out as the 'condition' was diagnosed within the first 14 days of the policy starting.  So puppies are insured from when they're born until they leave the breeder.  Then there's this 2 week/14 days window where they're not, even though you pay for the policy to start from the day you get them.  And you can only start a policy from the time of legal ownership, no earlier to cover that 2 week gap.  I'm not surprised they've not paid out (bunch of crooks!!!) but I am annoyed.  It's a heck of a lot of money to come out my savings so I'm doubling down on the no/low spending.

Frankly I'm not spending money on anything but the barest of bare essentials.  I'm eating out of the freezer and storecupboard for the next few months and looking at every single thing I eat and drink!!  I need to get creative!

I'd drunk all my Rocks blackcurrant squash.  It's my absolute favourite but at £3.50ish a bottle it's very much a luxury.  And I discovered when I looked closely at the label it only has 740ml.  Not even the standard 750ml of most other squashes!  Shrinkflation again!!

So I've decided to make my own cordials. The worst that's in them is sugar!  (BTW I looked at the ingredients on a Ribena label!!! 😦)  I had loads of dried elderberries in the store cupboard so made around 1 litre of  Elderberry, ginger and lime cordial.  (I had some frozen lime juice and chopped ginger in the freezer.)  It's blooming delicious!! 😋 And very dark as you can see in the photo, that's a clear glass bottle!   I have some ideas for other fruit cordials/squash so I can use up more of the fruit in the freezer and create drinks without additives and artificial sweeteners.  Since giving up my diet Coke habit I've been looking for drinks that are less processed.  Obviously I could just drink more water 🙄 but I do struggle with that.

I finally had enough ripe Roma tomatoes in the freezer (I've been adding them as they ripen on the window sill) so I cooked them.  Just tomatoes, nothing else added.  I've got a very disappointing 3 freezer tubs worth (each around 350g) which isn't even the equivalent of 3 tins of chopped tomatoes.  They taste good but nothing special.  I can buy a tin of basics tomatoes for 35p.  Hardly seems worth the effort and asking a favour of my plot neighbours to water the polytunnel when I wasn't able to get to the plot.

I harvested my chillies.  I let some ripen fully and left some green.  Neither have any heat.  Zero chilli flavour.  My green fingers have deserted me this year I think!

But my DIL is developing hers!  I've even got her saving seeds for next year!!  Sunflower and poppy seeds drying off on the window sill 🌻

And she's becoming an expert on finding yellow stickers!  Note how it says Too Good to Waste instead of reduced!!  She just happened to be in Waitrose at the right time and got around £65 worth of meat and fish for £22!!!!  She gifted me the above lamb mince 😊 Down from £6.55 to an amazing £2.59.  It's already cooked with grated carrots, courgettes (home grown) and onion (home grown!) and in the freezer. She also got a large fillet of wild Alaskan sockeye salmon down from £15 to £5.  We cut it into 4 decent portions and she gifted one to me!  It's also in the freezer 😋

I did get one of my important jobs ticked off my list ✅ I got my chimney swept!  It cost me £100.  I had the woodburner installed 6 years ago and the chimney hasn't been swept since 😳  So it's now all ready to be used when the weather turns colder (garage has a decent store of wood and heat logs bought in the sale) and I can also tell prospective buyers next year that it's been done and leave them the certificate!

Tuesday 5 September 2023

Luna and leeks

As you can see Luna is very well and has loads of energy!!  We've got an appt at the vet school today so hopefully she'll get signed off and we can get her vaccinations sorted out.  Her litter mates are all out and about going for walks.  Poor Emma doesn't get much peace so they're kept apart most of the time to give an old lady Lab a break.

She really is a wee sun worshipper, loves lying on the floor level windowsill watching the world go by!  Soon she'll be too big to lie on it!  You can just see my leeks in the blue raised bed on the right and courgettes and newly planted red kale in the one on the left!

Those leeks made a very delicious chicken and leek pie!! I just sauteed them in the chicken fat before adding some flour and stock.  It made the most amazing sauce for the chicken.

Yesterday's lunch was leftover pie and a baked potato.  Leeks and potatoes are home grown! 😋

Rhubarb and strawberry crumble using home grown fruit from the freezer.  I really need to sort out my freezer, again.  I know what's in there but it's all a big jumble!!  I think I've still got one more bag of last year's plums to use up.  I should really check to see what is left from last year before I start using this year's produce.  Chest freezers are fantastic but I've yet to find a way to keep on top of using up stuff in rotation.

Sunday 3 September 2023

Fine dining!


My work besties aka the Gin Queens took me out for a celebration retirement meal.  It was supposed to happen during the Summer holidays but as I was a bit tied up with 'stuff' and one of them was really ill, it didn't happen.  So we went out in Stirling to a newish restaurant called An Darna. Info HERE.  The menu changes regularly and is focussed on local seasonal produce.  They only do tasting menus so you can't actually get a 'meal.'

This is the dinner menu for last week.  With 4 teachers it was very hard not to comment on the 2 glaring spelling errors!!!  You choose a dish from each row.  You can also get a paired wine tasting option ie a different wine for each course specially chosen to compliment the dish you chose.  All sounds lovely.  I chose venison, scallop, Scottish lobster, ling and poached pear.

We started off photographing our courses but as we were chatting so much (and they were drinking the wines) we all quickly forgot.  I can't fault the quality of the food, it was all delicious.  But teeny tiny  portions just don't cut it for me.   In my first course the pickled onions were the size of the silverkin ones you buy in jars and they were cut in half!!   The apple balls were the size of petit pois!  The above venison course and lobster bhaji were served in large ramekin sized dishes.  My poached pear was about 6 wee pieces of very hard pear served with a few crumbled bits of ice cream that looked like feta cheese!

I thought they might have served some fresh steamed veggies or salad with each course, nope!  And **whispers** it wasn't that hot by the time they dramatically served it and told you about every ingredient 🙄

When I asked for a glass of Chardonnay to have with my meal instead of the wine pairings, it was as if I'd asked for the blood of a new born!!!  But they relented 🙄  It was really lovely spending a few hours with my friends.  I miss seeing them every day but hearing their stories from work makes me so happy I'm retired!! 😊 

So it was back to 'proper' food cooking this morning!  I pulled some leeks from the front garden and used up the bendy carrots I grated and froze last week to make soup.

I'd cooked a chicken and used the bones to make stock in the slowcooker.  I let it sit overnight in the fridge and skimmed off the chicken fat (schmaltz?)  to use later.  My big soup pot is full of yummy chicken and rice soup.  And I'll be serving it in a huge big soup bowl!!!  Then I'll fill my soup mugs and freeze it for lunches later in the week 😋 

This afternoon I'll be making a chicken and leek pie and rhubarb crumble with custard to use up stuff in the freezer.  Now that's fine dining to me these days!! 😂

Saturday 2 September 2023

10 years!


10 years ago today I moved back to the city, bucking the trend at the time of everyone moving to the country.  It was very stressful time in my life and I really didn't want to move.  At the time I didn't have many choices of houses to buy and I'll be honest and say I didn't love this house when I bought it.  It was supposed to be a stop gap before my then partner and I pooled our resources to buy a home together.  But plans (and people!) change and here I am 10 years later on my own (totally happy with that choice!!) planning to sell up next year and downsize even more.

I was thinking last night that I've now decorated every room in the house (except the craft room) and refloored the whole house with carpet and laminate.  I've replaced 2 bathrooms, a kitchen and a utility room. I put in a woodburner.  I've painted everything white (mostly!)  I've replaced wonky doors and windows.  I've cut down horrendous Leylandii trees and built raised beds in the front and back gardens.  And I've tried to do it all as cost effectively as I can.  I'm lucky as I bought this house at a time when the housing market was low and I'll be selling it as the market is improving again.

I'm aiming to get the house on the market next March so I have started a list of the 'things' that I have to finish, get fixed and make everything look amazing in photos!!  My painting everything white strategy has paid off as all I need to do in some places is just a few touch ups.  No new materials will need to be bought.  I need an electrician to fix some lights and sockets.  And a builder /joiner to repair an outside wall.  Then Operation Downsize Me will begin in earnest!! 😊

Friday 1 September 2023

Suddenly September


Blimey, it's suddenly September!  I asked for my teacher's pension to be paid into my account on the first of each month, starting with September.  I wasn't surprised to find it hasn't been paid yet as I've not even had any notification from the SSPA to say how much it will be.  I did get my final salary paid in on Wednesday (just for the first half of the month before the schools started back.)  So my new financial regime begins today.  I'm now officially living on a teeny tiny pension and my savings.  And after last month's disastrous spending it will need to be a no/very low spend month unless I desperately need it.

I got a £1 saver delivery slot from Sainsbury's this morning between 6am and 10am.  I'm up at 5am any way with the teeny menace!!  They came at 7am so that wasn't too bad.  The above photo is my bare minimum fresh foods and storecupboard stuff.  I got 2 jars of coffee and 2 tubs of stock powder to tuck away in the cupboard.  And vinegar and sugar in case I want to make chutney or sauce with surplus fruit and veg.  But I only got a chicken, some cheese and a double pack of bacon and that will just need to last me the month.

This is all my household and cleaning stuff as I'm being extra vigilant cleaning up poop from both dogs!!  I 'treated' myself to a 6 pack of San Pellegrino water and a bottle of Rocks blackcurrant juice.  But it really was a bare bones monthly shop.  Total spend £85.53.  It doesn't look like much stuff for that amount so there will be a fair amount of eating from the freezer this month.

The tomatoes and chillies are ripening nicely on the sunny windowsill.  As soon as each tomato is ripe enough I've been popping them into the freezer.  I'll probably be able to make a couple of portions of sauce but I'm fast coming to believe they're not worth the effort or space in the polytunnel.  I think I said that last year too!! 😂

I have loads of onions and potatoes from the plot and plenty of leeks in the front garden.  My plot neighbour gave me some green beans.  My Lovely Mum has plums and apples to give me.  And I might pop down to the Community Food Waste shop too.  So lots of frugal food sources are open to me and I do like the challenge of using it all up and not wasting anything! 😋

If you've been following me for a while, does it surprise you to know that 10 years ago this weekend I moved into this house????  And oh my goodness, there's been many a plot twist and turn to my life in that time!!!! 😱