Wednesday 31 January 2024

January Spending


Hmmm,  January spending wasn't as disciplined as I would like.  But I have kept a very detailed record of every single penny spent.  I'd like to be as disciplined as Frugal Queen one day but I'm still a long way off that!  I have set a supermarket budget but I need to work out things like how much the dogs cost each month.  I genuinely don't know 😳 So I'm noting when I open a 15kg bag of dog food or Emma starts a new pack of medications and noting how long they last.  If I do this over a period of time I'll work out their average monthly costs and budget accordingly.

Any way, here's what I've spent this month:

Supermarket £181.29 (includes a top up for February)

Dogs £362.23 (includes a puppy pass and 2 x 15kg bags of food)

Energy £272.24 (my half of the monthly bill)

Car £7.99 (screen wash and de icer)

Other £132.59 (hen party gift, birthday gift, dentist, coffee date)

When I add this up it comes to a shocking £956.34.  And this doesn't include my direct debits!!

As my pension income is £596.30 a month,  there's a bit of a discrepancy!!!!  This is where I'm relying on my savings to keep me going until I downsize and pay off my car.  I am still financially supporting my son and DIL who live with me so these figures are temporary.

It's a sharp reminder that I'm so lucky to have built up my savings while I was still working full time!

Monday 29 January 2024

This is why I don't go out much!!


Today was one of those days where I had to go out and 'do stuff' that involved dealing with people!  And it reminded me why I don't go out much!!

I had a dental appointment so booked Luna into puppy day care so I could catch up on all my errands in one day.  I had to buy a new puppy pass so that was £140 spent before 9am 😱  I went to Pets at Home as I needed to stock up on biodegradable poop bags.  They're changing the whole layout of the store so nothing was where it was supposed to be.  Instead of a quick pop in and out, I spent 10 mins looking for them.  £3 spent in there.  Then into B&Q for silicone mould cleaner (my shower seal is mouldy despite me cleaning it regularly) so £6 spent there.

The dentist took more impressions today and I chose the tooth colour for my plate 🦷  Did you know that your eye tooth is a shade darker than the tooth beside it because it's got thicker tooth enamel?  I didn't!  £45.16 for today's treatment.

Then I met 2 of my 2 Gin Queen friends for coffee at Costa.  Both are currently off work (we taught together in the same school) with work related stress.  One of them told me she's decided to retire at the Summer (yeay!) so another good teacher is lost because the system stinks (boo!)  Total spend in there £7.35 ☕

Then I went to Sainsbury's to 'spend' my Nectar points.  They have also moved everything round since the last time I was in and I had no idea where anything was any more.  I was really frazzled by the time I got to the till.  But then the till wouldn't accept my Nectar card.  The assistant was very unhelpful to the point of rudeness and just said go to Customer Services, they'll sort it out for you.  I duly went and they were even more unhelpful!  They didn't know why the system wasn't letting me spend my points.  Even though my receipt clearly shows I've got points to spend.  Eurghhh!!  I'll need to try sort it out tomorrow.

When I got home I totalled up my spending and was shocked to see it was £255.61!  Mostly planned and budgeted for but still a lot for one day!!!  That's the down side of saving up all your errands to do in one go!

I picked Luna up around 4pm.  She's always exhausted after a day spent running around with her doggy pals!  She likes to sleep with her head on me or next to me for the whole evening πŸ’€

I felt the need for some healthy comfort food so I made stovies using up some sausages and turnip from the freezer.  Potatoes, onions, carrots, turnip and meat (usually leftovers) are all cooked together in one pot.  Different parts of the UK and even in Scotland make a version of this and it's known by a few different names.  It really hit the spot and there's enough for my lunch tomorrow.  Doesn't look great but it's flipping delicious! πŸ˜‹

I'm absolutely exhausted tonight.  Apart from seeing my friends I wouldn't say it was an enjoyable day out.  I'm getting even more reclusive as I really really don't like going out and dealing with people!!

Sunday 28 January 2024

A baking weekend


So far I've still not bought any treats (sweets, chocolate, crisps basically no ultra processed foods) this month and been satisfying my snack peckishness with home baked from scratch goods.  Yesterday I made this amazing carrot cake loaf!  Recipe HERE.  I changed the cinnamon to mixed spice (I don't like cinnamon!) and left out the walnuts as I didn't have any.  It's the best carrot cake recipe I've made for a long time! πŸ˜‹

Since I've been eating a lot of sweet treats lately,  I decided I needed to make some savoury ones.  I made some oatcakes with seeds (Lidl's mixed seeds that have been lurking in the cupboard) to have with some cheese.  Recipe is one I've used before HERE.  It uses very little ingredients and is VERY tasty!! πŸ˜‹πŸ˜‹

I've popped them into a jar so I'll see how long they last!!

I started a sourdough loaf that I'll bake first thing tomorrow morning.  It always looks awful when you first mix it!  It just gets left on the worktop all day and roughly every hour I'll give it a wee stretch and turn.  No kneading required!

I fancied cauliflower cheese for my tea last night so I got the frozen cauliflower out the freezer.  There wasn't a single 'normal' sized floret in the whole bag!!!  That's a teaspoon for reference.  I was really annoyed!  They look like the leftover bits from the conveyor belt in the packing factory!! 

I didn't have milk so once again used the Marvel dried milk to make the cheese sauce.  I did plan to bake it in the oven to get a crispy top but it looked good enough to eat without it so saved money by not putting on the oven!!  I added some chunks of gammon I had in the freezer and it was a very tasty meal! 

Luna is booked into puppy day care tomorrow (Monday) so I've got a long list of errands to do including a dentist appt and coffee with a friend.  I'm planning to spend my Nectar points in Sainsbury's so I'll be doing a storecupboard audit tonight!!

Thursday 25 January 2024

Doing 'stuff'


I finished a sock 🧦  It's in a blue/green colourway and I don't love it.  It's one of the Regia Arne and Carlos designs.  But it's a finished sock and I'll cast on the second one tomorrow.  This pair might end up getting gifted.  Or I could be really organised and say I've started my Christmas presents for this year already πŸŽπŸ˜‰

The weather is still absolutely appalling so I was very surprised to see that my Sarah Raven tulips are starting to pop up again in the raised bed at the front of my house.  This will be their 3rd year so I'm keen to see how they do this year.  Photo taken through the window but all that greenery is tulip leaves!  🌷🌷🌷

Since my leeks were planted in the same bed I decided to remove them to give the tulips a chance.  This may or may not have been a mistake!!  I've just stuck them in a tub and rinsed them off a bit.  The rain can clean them a bit more before I get round to chopping them up and freezing them tomorrow! 

I've been doing more cooking to stop me buying sweet treats!  Yesterday I made some crepes with the buttermilk from my last batch of butter making.  They were perfect with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of sugar! πŸ‹

Today I made a rice pudding on the stove top with last of my pudding rice.  I didn't have any kind of milk except some powdered Marvel in the storecupboard so I used that!  I used brown sugar so it has a slight caramel flavour.  Doesn't look great in a photo but oh my, it was delicious!! πŸ˜‹

My pre ordered seed potatoes from Pennards arrived!  I have Epicure, Cara and Arran Victory.  I've been trying for the last few years to get Epicure as they are the classic early Ayrshire tatties I was brought up on!  I'll do these in pots and the others I'll put in the ground at the allotment.  Cara and Arran Victory grow well for me on the plot πŸ₯”

My Kitchen Garden magazine arrived too!  For the first time in months it didn't contain lettuce seeds!!  I must count up the number of lettuce seeds I have.  I don't even like growing the stuff!!!  I think my subscription must be almost finished.  It was a gift from my Lovely Mum 😊

Even though I've been taking things slowly I've been pottering around and doing loads of 'stuff.'

Tuesday 23 January 2024

Isha and Jocelyn


I didn't know that the Met Office only names a storm when there's a loss of life threat.  Storm Isha hit Stirling (and other places) pretty badly.  We had gusts of 90 mph winds throughout Sunday evening and through the night.  Fortunately I haven't had any structural damage but my garden stuff and bins were blown about.  And I have a bit of someone's fence blown down into the garage side of the house.  It's not my neighbour's so goodness knows where it came from!

Rural parts of Stirlingshire lost power and there's a lot of flooding.  I think the river will burst it's banks again and flood the allotment.  I'm not going to check, I'll wait for someone to post in our FB group.

The only 'damage' I have is a tiny drip from the sky light in the utility room.  I've had that for ages but it only drips when we have really heavy rain plus wind.  I've got my roof guy booked in to check it out soon.  Until then I have a basin underneath it to catch the odd drip.  Storm Jocelyn is due to hit us from noon today but it's only a yellow warning.  Just tons of rain methinks! ☔

I'm continuing to stick to my low spend year of groceries.  I've been baking a bit more to satisfy my sweet tooth instead of buying sweets (I have a bit of a fruit pastille habit!!)  I used up the last of my bargain jars of mincemeat from last year and made some pastry.  These ugly sausage roll looking pinwheels were absolutely yummy and hit the spot.

Other than doing a bit of tidying up and sock knitting, I'm having a very lazy January.  I was thinking last night that I haven't been 'busy enough' or 'done enough' but then remembered I'm retired now.  I don't need to be busy unless I want to be!!  And right now thanks to Isha and Jocelyn, I just want to be cooried into my house and keep myself warm by the woodburner! 🧢πŸ”₯ 

Tuesday 16 January 2024

Big mistake!


I went to Tesco yesterday to 'spend' my £13 vouchers on meat.  They had very little meat in the reduced section, lots of ready meals though!  I got a yellow sticker turkey drumstick and 2 x 400g packs of diced beef (£4.19 each, full price sadly!) as I've been craving some hearty stews.  I was very tempted by some diced venison but it was £6.50 for just 250g so I stuck with the beef!

I didn't get a huge amount of meat off the drumstick but I did get a huge pot of delicious stock.  So I made a huge pot of turkey and rice soup with home grown leeks.  I added all the meat (cut in cubes) so the soup is fairly substantial! πŸ˜‹

Proper 'sticks to your ribs' soup!! πŸ˜‚ At least 8 or 9 good portions still left in that big soup pot!

The beef has been simmering away in the Crockpot all afternoon with carrot, onion and some of the turnip I got at the community food shop.  A good splash of Worcestershire sauce and some Tamari are the only other ingredients except for water.  It smells amazing already! πŸ˜‹

As for the big mistake?  I spent £5.95 of my precious supermarket budget on some Zip firelighters (60 in the pack) to light the woodburner.  It's been years since I bought any as I've been using the natural ones from Letko.  I thought the Zip ones would be a lot cheaper for me to use.  They work out at 9.9p each.  But they absolutely stink!  My hands were stinky and it took several washes to get rid of the smell!!!  When I read the label I saw that they contain kerosine!  I can't have that around with a dog that will eat anything!!  She's prone to grabbing something and running away with it, trying to chew and swallow it before I can get to her!  So I'm rehoming them and I've ordered more of the natural firelighters that work out at 10.8p each.  That extra penny is worth the peace of mind that Luna won't eat anything nasty.

I'm adding the woodburner costs (logs, matches, firestarters, chimney sweep) to my annual energy costs.  I haven't done that before.  I usually just count it as part of my monthly spending so it will be interesting to see how it averages out over a year.

Monday 15 January 2024

Toothache and food haul


I broke a tooth back in October and saw my fab NHS dentist at the end of November (that's really fast here!!)  It was so badly broken a filling couldn't save it, so it was decided I needed it crowned.  I went to the first appt in December to start the process but as I was having some sensitivity my dentist said wait another 6 weeks.  

I went back today expecting to start root canal treatment as it hasn't settled.  He told me the nerve is dying (which I knew from past experiences) and the broken tooth is not worth saving.  So I'm losing another tooth!!  😭 It's not agony but I do have a low level constant dull ache.  As I've lost a few teeth in that area due to recurring abscesses, I now need a plate!  😭  A real sign that I'm getting old! πŸ‘΅But thanks to our NHS dental system, it costs a lot less to get an extraction and plate than it does to get a crown.  Silver lining and all that!

As I was in town any way, I popped into my favourite place!  Today's haul from the community food shop (all free) was potatoes, sausage rolls (already frozen), spicy rice (already frozen with no label), 2 all butter croissants (they were huge), 2 large passionfruit and a large avocado.  All from M&S and Waitrose!

The lady giving out the fridge stuff said that the avocado was "really ripe" so I didn't have high hopes it would be edible.  I was wrong!  It's the most perfect avocado I've had in aaaages.  I mashed half of it up and spread it on one of the croissants with some streaky bacon.  The other half I sliced and froze.

As we're expecting some snowy weather this week with up to minus 15 degrees C in places, it's good to know I have enough food if we're snowed in for any length of time ⛄❄

Wednesday 10 January 2024

Free money!


It occurred to me that since I've been using Tesco more in the last few years I should have been accumulating some vouchers.  I logged on to my account and discovered that my Clubcard was still registered to my old address.  That explains why I haven't been getting statements!  Now all updated.  I also discovered that I currently have £13 in vouchers to spend in store!!  Woohoo!

Encouraged by this amount I logged on to my Nectar account and discovered I've also got £22.98 to spend in Sainsbury's!!  It's basically free money as I'd be buying groceries in these supermarkets anyway!

I've also got a £1.50 voucher from Dobbies.  They have Waitrose food there but I'm not sure if I can use it, they do have some exclusions on vouchers.  If not I'll get seeds or a herb plant, still something edible!

That means I have around £35 to add to my supermarket budget just by swiping my loyalty cards.

Tuesday 9 January 2024

Free food


Luna was at doggy day care today for the first time in a month.  This meant I had the chance to pop into town to do some errands and collect my new glasses (paid for in November so not in my 2024 budget!)  I popped into my local community food shop and got all the above food for free.  

I've talked before about how this particular project is free to anyone (not means tested) and their aim is to reduce food waste.  None of the above food could be donated to a food bank as it's all past their dates.  You can't tell from the photo but all the M&S produce is actually frozen.  They have big freezers now and freeze as much of the fresh ready meals etc as they can.  Full price on the above should have been £31.45 but once it's past the date it can't even be sold with a yellow sticker.  If the community food shop doesn't take it, it goes in the bin 😲

It's just pot luck what's available.  Today there was hardly any fresh veg and I got the last bag of lemons.  I'm not a fan of turnip/swede/rutabaga as a side veg but it's good to bulk out a stew or soup.  Everything got chopped up and frozen asap!  

There's always loads of bread at the shop (today it was all M&S bread) but I'm now in the habit of regularly making my own sourdough bread.  I also made more butter this week so had buttermilk to make scones.  Not my best looking effort but they're delicious.  Also portioned up and in the freezer!

I know I'm very lucky to live somewhere that is so proactive in stopping food waste.  There are many other fab projects within Stirling that take food waste from the supermarkets, restaurants and local shops and make 'ready meals' to give away free.  They even deliver!   As far as I know you do have to be referred by social work or a school so by using the community shop I'm not taking away anything from those in need.  There are also many drop in cafes and warm spaces where folk can always get a hot meal, no questions asked.

Once I've moved house and get everything settled I'm planning on volunteering with them 😊

Saturday 6 January 2024

Weird laundry sizes (shrinkflation in action!)


I was watching Frugal Queen on YouTube yesterday.  She was talking about her bargain laundry liquid stock up for the year and it got me thinking.  I thought I'd got a bargain on my Ecover liquid but out of curiousity I went online to search for some prices to compare.  Oh my goodness I went down the rabbit hole of shrinkflation!  

I knew my usual Ecover bottle size had shrunk from 1.5 litres to 1.43 litres but just look at the weird and wonderful sizes of some of the other big brands!!!!  Fairy Non Bio is 1.225 litres or 2.45 litres.  Persil Non Bio is 1.538 litres.  Why such weird sizes????

Interestingly the supermarket own brands are still 'normal' sizes like 1.5 litres or 750ml.  I hate to say that with my shrinking budget, using Ecover is now a luxury I'm going to have to cut out πŸ˜”  I'll be switching to an own brand that costs £3.42 for 1.5 litres and does at least 60 washes, making it cost around 5p a load.  Ecover costs 23p a load (or 16p if I can get it at Nectar prices.)

The weird sizes make it harder for consumers to work out cost per load unless you've got the time (well I am retired now!! πŸ˜‚) and inclination.  I should look into making my own I guess or look at some of the Eco alternatives.

Anyone make their own or use an eco laundry ball?  Is it cheaper?  And more importantly would they work on doggy smells??

Friday 5 January 2024

A full oven


I wanted to make some sweet potato dog chews.  They take at least 2 and a half hours in a low temp oven so I thought I might as well fill it if it's on that long.

Dunno if they're worth the effort and expense of the oven being on that long though!  Next time I'll just try dehydrating them.  But both dogs love them!! 

I made a rice pudding with oat milk and brown sugar.  Doesn't look very photogenic but it's absolutely delicious! πŸ˜‹

I chucked in some potatoes to bake plus a leftover sweet potato.

And I made a potatoes boulangere!  Also absolutely delicious with plenty of leftovers to freeze.

I also made butter and started a sourdough loaf to bake tomorrow morning.  It's been a busy day! 😊

Thursday 4 January 2024

Ways to use up: potatoes (edited)


I cleaned out my veg basket and fridge of veggies before my Sainsbury's delivery yesterday.  I had half a bag of sprouting potatoes leftover from Christmas to use up so I made a big pot of buttery mash!  After 2 meals served with mash (sausages in gravy and slow cooked beef, both from the freezer) I still had around 500g leftover.  So, I made 16 tattie scones πŸ˜‹ 12 are already in the freezer!

But it got me thinking of the different ways I use potatoes and wondered if I could do more.

When the oven's on for a decent amount of time, I like to fill it up with potatoes to bake.  Some get used to make cheesy stuffed potatoes.  Some get cut into wedges, sprinkled with seasonings and frozen for later.

I had a sorry looking baked potato lurking in the fridge so I grated it and made a kinda rosti.  It was nice with a fried egg!  Not as good as proper ones like THESE but passable.

I've also made Aloo Tikki HERE, really just spicy potato cakes.

So my potato repertoire consists of the usual boiling, baking, chipping and roasting.  I top pies with mash.  I occasionally make tattie scones.  I've made rumbledethumps (Scottish bubble and squeak) and tried Aloo Tikki.  I've made potato gratin.  And don't forget the classic leek and potato soup!  In the Summer I make potato salads especially with new potatoes.

I'm consistently able to grow a decent amount of potatoes so I was thinking I could prepare some different potato based things to freeze in the Summer.  Can you think of any other potato ideas that are simple and cheap to do?   Especially things I could freeze!

Edited to add ideas from comments:

Gnocchi, duchess potatoes, saag aloo, fishcakes, hash, potato bread, potato pastry, croquettes, potatoes  boulangere, hasselback potatoes

Wednesday 3 January 2024

Annual supermarket budget


I've set myself an annual budget of £100 a month or £1,200 a year to spend in the supermarket/shops 😱  This will cover all food for myself, toiletries and cleaning products.  I'm not including the dogs in this as they have a separate budget but they will eat some of the veggies.

£1,200 a year doesn't seem like a lot but I'm taking inspiration from Toni over at Simple Frugal Life where she has a yearly budget of £750 for 2 people.  Read her post HERE that's full of good sensible advice.  I was so pleased to see that I already do many of the things she does but there's always room for improvement!

I got a Sainsbury's delivery this morning.  The photo shows the tiny amount of stuff I got for £76.95.  Some of it was stocking up as they had ridiculously good Nectar prices on things like Ecover laundry liquid and double cream (to make butter!)  Apparently I 'saved' £7.78 on this shop.  I saved myself even more money by going through my online basket last night and removing about £20 worth of 'stuff' I can do without!!  Although I kept in my diet Coke! 😳

It's a good start to the year but we're only on day 3 of 2024!!! πŸ˜‚

Tuesday 2 January 2024

Money, budgets and other boring stuff!


I hate doing it but more than ever I need to keep on top of my money and stick to a strict budget.  So, yesterday I sat down and went through all my fixed monthly expenses.  Then I added up my fixed monthly income and did a subtraction sum.

After I've paid for all the boring things I can't avoid every month (like council tax, internet, mobile phone etc)  I have the grand sum of £59.54 a month left over.  This has to cover food for me, household items like cleaning stuff/toiletries etc,  clothes,  entertainment,  energy bills and of course food for the dogs and their medications.

Obviously £59.54 isn't enough to cover these expenses and so I'll need to use my savings.  When I was working I saved half my salary each month for several years.  These savings were always intended to supplement my teeny teaching pension until I got my state pension too.  I've also used them to pay my car, house and pet insurance in annual payments as it's cheaper.  Unfortunately a certain puppy used up a large amount of this money in vet bills plus I had to get the building repair work done on the extension.  This means I haven't got a lot of these savings left.  I might just be able to eek them out if I can sell this house quickly.

Luckily, I have another savings fund that I don't touch.  This is what's left of the inheritance I got from my uncle and has always been earmarked for estate agent and legal fees incurred in selling and buying houses.  Plus hopefully a wee bit leftover for new carpets or washing machine etc if needed.  I really really hope I don't need to dip into this fund 🀞

I knew when I made the decision to retire early I might find myself in this position so I'm mentally prepared.  But it's still flipping scary when you see it written down in black and white!! 😱

Monday 1 January 2024

Happy New Year!


Happy New Year!  As always I'm not making resolutions but I'm aiming (again!) to continue simplifying life and doing more of the things I love πŸ’– I've added my 4 goals to the sidebar ----->>>

So far my plan is to spend January finishing off all the DIY jobs that need doing, then in February the house (and garden) will get a deep clean and tidy.  Fingers crossed, the house can go on the market in March.  Eeeeek!!!!

In April my youngest son gets married and that's as far as I'm planning for now!