Thursday 29 February 2024

February Spending


I've spent the day finishing the wallpaper in the craft room.  I'm sad it looks good as I'll not get the benefit but it will help sell the house.  Every single room in the house has now been updated/decorated so it genuinely is in move in condition once I do a deep clean! 

I needed to buy more rolls of wallpaper so my February spending is a bit higher than I'd planned.

Supermarket £70.97 (includes big March shop)

Dogs £416.76  (includes a puppy pass and 2 x 15kg of dog food)

Energy £234.76 (my half of the monthly bill)

Car £51.99 (full tank of petrol)

Other £171.76 (includes 4 rolls of wallpaper and 20 packing boxes for moving)

Total monthly spend £946.24, a mere £10 less than last month.  As I said last month this doesn't include my direct debits and is way more than my pension income.  So I'm still living off my savings until I downsize.

The dogs are a huge expense just now.  Emma is elderly and needs expensive meds.  She's 12 and realistically not got long left.  She deserves to be pain free and have some quality of life. I've been paying a dog trainer to help with some of Luna's issues so that's added to my costs.  Plus she's been going to puppy day care so I can get some decorating done in peace!  That's just a temporary solution for now.

I'm also tracking my annual supermarket spending.  It's set at £100 per month so £1200 for the year.  This includes everything you get in the supermarket not just food.  Current spend for the first 2 months is £252.26 so I still have £47.74 to spend in March to stay on track.  And I just did a big shop today in Tesco!

Keeping a written track of everything I spend is definitely keeping me focused on where my money goes.  Even if it makes for scary reading!! 😱

Wednesday 28 February 2024

Avocado on toast with eggs


If I had avocado on organic sourdough toast with eggs at my favourite local restaurant it would cost £10.95.  My breakfast this morning cost 62p!!  

My home made sourdough bread (made with organic flour) works out at 6p a slice.

Eggs (medium free range from Tesco) are 25p each.

Avocado (frozen) was 'free' from M&S with my coupons.

Total 62p! πŸ˜‹

I popped into Waitrose last night after dropping my son off at work and picked up some reduced whipping cream (and sweets!)  I had some loose change in my pocket so used that.  I knew you could use whipping cream to make butter but I'd never tried it.  600ml produced 250g of butter and 300ml of buttermilk.  I think that's less butter and more buttermilk than using double cream.  But I'm not sure if that's true.

Friday 23 February 2024

Some DIY at last!

Luna was at puppy day care today so I finally made a start on the wallpaper in my craft room.  I decided not to do the feature wall using the flowery wallpaper I bought last year and will save it for my next house.

It's by Arthouse and it's called Summer Garden.  It's rather bold and maybe not to everyone's taste!  It comes in different coloured backgrounds (white, charcoal and grey.)  Mine is the grey colourway above.  

So I'm doing the whole thing in the boring wallpaper and leaving it unpainted.  It's quite thick so I hoped it would cover all the imperfections.  It's looking ok so far. 

I had only bought 2 rolls and used them up more quickly than I thought.  So I had to get more from B&Q HERE.  By the time I got them I was burst for the day, mostly from moving the furniture around like Tetris!!  It's already looking clean, fresh and rather bright which is what you want for potential buyers.

I've ordered some packing boxes, tape and bubble wrap.  They'll arrive tomorrow (Saturday) and I'll start packing up some 'stuff.'   It feels like I'm finally on the last stretch before the last big clean and tidy up for the marketing photosπŸ‘

Wednesday 21 February 2024

Tea and coffee


Following on from the successful clearing out of my spices, I had a go at sorting out my tea and coffee.  There's a lot more tea than I thought!!!  To be fair some were gifts as folk know I like 'nice' teas but some of them I did buy myself.  I have a ton of Pukka herbal teas.  The larger Kilner jar and the Yorkshire Tree tin plus the actual Pukka box are full of herbal teas designed to fight off colds etc.  

I have unopened boxes/jars/tins of Tetley green teabags, loose Earl Grey and 2 lots of camomile.  I have some opened green jasmine tea, Whittards Christmas herbal loose tea and the loose tea I got from my afternoon tea at the Balmoral.  

I've also got my own home grown and dried applemint, sage and elderflower.  There's some loose echinacea I use in my elderberry syrup mixture.  The smaller Kilner jar has Sencha Rose loose tea (it's delicious but almost finished) and then I have some bog standard PG Tips teabags (not pictured) I use these teabags because they're biodegradable but they've changed the pack sizes recently 😠 So it's fair to say I've got plenty of tea to keep me going in the coming shortages!! πŸ«–

My coffee collection isn't as big!! πŸ˜‚ It's fairly self explanatory except the coffee capsules aren't mine.  I'm strictly instant or filter in a cafetiere! ☕ I used to be quite fussy about my brand (Percol Americano) but I like the supermarket own brand now and it's hugely cheaper!  I generally have 2 or 3 large mugs of coffee in the morning.  Never ask me anything before that first coffee!!!!! Then I move onto tea in the afternoon and herbal teas at night.  I've given up buying Diet Coke (again!) so the only other drink I have is water.

It's a foul weather day here.  The organised dog training walk group has been cancelled so my day is my own.  Time for a bit of painting if I can get some peace from Luna!! πŸ•

Tuesday 20 February 2024



It's been on my mind lately to start running down my storecupboard and freezer in readiness for moving.  I have a lot of stuff that I could use up and it will save me money too!  I started with my herbs and spices.  Despite getting a new kitchen 2 years ago (September 2021!!) I had spices dated 2017!!  I must have just put them back in the cupboard without checking!

So I chucked out the really old ones and sorted the rest.  My cooking seems to fall into categories so I sorted my spices into those.  The above photo is of my Tex Mex spices.  I make up my own fajita and taco seasoning mixes, much cheaper than the ready made packets and no fillers.

Basic curry spices (cumin does double duty!)

Baking spices, although I tend to just use mixed spice for most things.  No idea why I have cinnamon as I don't like it.  I can only think I bought it for a school project and didn't use that one.  The whole nutmegs are dated 2019 but they'll still be fine.

Standard cooking herbs/spices.  The saffron was a gift but I've only used it once.  Any ideas on what to use it for??  It's too expensive to just throw out!

This is my most recent purchase.  I used to live on stir fries when I was working as they were quick and easy to throw it together when I was tired.  I've not really had many recently.  I want to start again as it's a great way to stretch a little meat with loads of veggies.

Photo from BBC food

I did a search on YouTube for some authentic Chinese sauces as the ready made ones have got too many processed additives for my liking.  I found a few channels that suggested these 5 basic ingredients were the base of most sauces:

  1.  Soy sauce 
  2.  Sesame oil
  3.  MSG  
  4.  Starch (something like cornflour)
  5.  Scihuan pepper
I've always got Tamari soy sauce and cornflour.  I used to have sesame oil so I'll look out for a decent priced one again probably in Aldi or Lidl.  I've found some Scihuan peppercorns on Amazon at a decent price so I'll order some next month.  I'm going to pass on the MSG though!  

I found that these 5 extra essentials were a common suggestion too:
  1. Oyster sauce
  2. Rice vinegar
  3. Chinese cooking wine
  4. 5 spice powder
  5. Chilli sauce
A bit of research suggests apple cider vinegar (which I always have) is a good sub for rice vinegar.  And dry sherry is a decent sub for Chinese cooking wine.  So in my March supermarket shop I'll add some Chinese cooking ingredients to my shopping list πŸ˜‹

With the addition of garlic and ginger that I normally keep in the freezer, I'll have the basics to start making decent Chinese fakeaways again! πŸ˜‹πŸ˜‹

Sunday 18 February 2024

Socks and suds


I finished the blue and green socks 🧦  They've grown on me!  They're not this vivid in real life.  It's a sunny day here making them look brighter! 🌞 I'm so pleased I managed to match the stripes but I'm undecided if I should wear them myself or gift them at some point 🎁

I've knitted 2 more squares for my sock blanket.  I love how the same yarn can produce 2 different looking squares🧢 I've got a growing pile of squares to add to the blanket so I'm not casting on the last ball of sock yarn yet.  I need to deal with the squares first!

I went to empty the washing machine only to find it had stopped halfway through the wash  It's got a digital display and it said 'suds' πŸ™„ It's started doing this a lot!  I've got soft water so I only put in half the recommended dose of Ecover any way.  The machine is about 5 years old now and it moves around when it's spinning.  I have to keep pushing it back under the worktop.  It is also VERY noisy! 🎧 I'm not taking it with me to my new house as I'd like a washer/dryer to save space. My dryer is in the garage.  I rarely use it but my son and DIL use it all the time.  No idea why it's started making so much foam but it's a pain to scoop it all out and rinse off some of the clothes in the sink πŸ‘šπŸ‘–πŸ§¦

Saturday 17 February 2024

Pretty sure I know!


Silver Lab

Luna is an unusual colour for a Lab.  Silver Labs were rare but they're becoming more common.  Basically they're a colour mutation of the chocolate gene.  She looks like a pale chocolate but has silver streaks and her undercoat is silver.


I've had several people including good friends and a dog trainer (!) tell me she's definitely part Weimaraner.  I get it, they look similar especially as she's still a long legged and skinny Lab puppy.  And the colouring is similar. But nope she's definitely a pure Lab!


Today I had a lady ask me if she was a Vizsla.  Again I can see the resemblance but the colouring is very different.  They're more a fox red colour.  She even asked me if I was sure she was a Lab!!  Pretty sure I know my own dog's breed.  And I have the Kennel Club paperwork too!

People are weird.  I'd never go up to a complete stranger and tell them what their dog 'really is' πŸ™„

Thursday 15 February 2024

I closed my account


After repeated attempts to phone Nectar last week (on hold forever) and several 'live chat' conversations this morning, I was getting absolutely nowhere in trying to sort out my points issue.  Remember when I tried to redeem my points in Sainsbury's there was a 'problem' with my card? HERE

The 'problem' was that I had a negative balance.  It's obviously a mistake so it would be simple to fix, right?  Nope!  The 'live chat' person kept repeating I had a negative balance so that's why I couldn't redeem my points.  I kept repeating that as I hadn't redeemed my points for a whole year, I couldn't have a negative balance and how is a negative balance even possible.  It's not a debit/credit card!

They couldn't explain why it was negative.  No idea at all.  They asked me to confirm my last 2 redemptions and I discovered that in June 2022 someone (def not me!!) redeemed 8000 points.  That's £40!!  And that put me in a negative balance.  Again I asked how can you have a negative balance?  They had no idea.

I asked how could I have redeemed my points in January 2023 if I'd had a negative balance since June 22?  Again, they had no idea.  

I googled it and turns out a lot of folk have had this negative balance issue and it looks like 8000 points is a common amount to have been fraudulently redeemed.  And no one seems to have resolved it.

When I'm dealing with customer services I try very hard to be polite.  I worked in customer services in Goldbergs in Glasgow when I was a student, so I get it.  But I was getting increasingly frustrated with their scripted  "kindly try to understand" response to my questions.  They even put me on hold on a live chat screen!!  

I could see this was getting nowhere.  I exited that live chat, opened another one and requested to close my account!  It was done in 30 seconds.  I've 'lost' my £22.50 to spend.  It might even have been more than as I've been 'paying back' points on my account.  I won't be using Sainsbury's for my monthly shop any more.  I'll stick to Tesco and Lidl and get their loyalty vouchers.

It's annoying to have lost that amount but I'm sticking to my monthly supermarket budget so far 😊

If you have a Nectar card, check your account!

Wednesday 14 February 2024

Annual Energy Costs


I received my monthly energy bill this morning.  This is for gas and electricity.  I don't do direct debit, I use it then I pay for it.  So I don't actually know what my average monthly energy costs are.  As I'm putting the house on the market, I thought it would be useful to work out an average for the last year to give buyers an idea of what they would pay. 

For context, I live in a 4 bedroom chalet style house with a large single storey extension.  The 4th bedroom/family room (in the extension) is a cold room in Winter so you need extra heat in addition to the radiator.  My son and DIL use an electric fan heater.

I have gas central heating and on demand hot water.  I don't have a thermostat so the boiler is set to a certain number (between 1 and 6) for the temperature.  I generally switch the heating off around April and put it back on in late September or October.

I added up the last year's bills.  Total £3615.87!!  I divided it by 12 to get a monthly average.  The average is £301.32 a month for combined gas and electricity.  At the moment my son and DIL pay half of each bill as most of the house is currently in use.  And the heating is on from 7am until 8pm.  They have health issues and are at home all day.  If it was just me I'd have the radiators switched off in the unused rooms.

Is £300 a month more or less than you pay?  I'm trying to get a gauge on costs for when I move.  Obviously it should be less if I'm living in a smaller house as that's the whole point in downsizing!

Monday 12 February 2024

Haggis sausage rolls


They won't win any prizes for their looks but oh my goodness they're delicious!! πŸ˜‹ Pastry made from scratch (56p worth of flour and 66p worth of home made butter) and filled with the free haggis I got from the community shop.  I used half a beaten egg (11p worth) to brush the tops and popped them in the oven.  Excluding electricity costs each one costs just under 17p each.

A bit less than the artisan ones I saw at the Farmers Market on Saturday! 

Sunday 11 February 2024



This is how I make butter.  I've got it down to a fine art and can make a batch within 10 mins.  It's probably not the 'correct' way so if the butter police are reading, I've not poisoned anyone yet!!  I use  my old mixer to whip the cream.  I've had it for about 17 years.  I really wanted a Kitchen Aid one back in the day but couldn't justify the cost so got this Kenwood Patissiere instead.  It's a great work horse in the kitchen!

It takes about 9 mins of high speed whisking to get to this stage where the butter and buttermilk separate.  I do use the splashguard but even then if you're not quick enough to switch it off, it splashes all over the place!

I strain the butter and buttermilk through some muslin over a sieve.  Then I gather the corners and squeeze all the buttermilk out.  You're supposed to now rinse the butter in cold water to get rid of the last traces of buttermilk so the butter doesn't spoil and keeps longer.  I never do this! πŸ˜±πŸ˜‚  I just pat it dry and shape it into a block.  I never salt it, preferring to leave it plain.  Sometimes I freeze some of it if I know I'll not use much in the coming week.

My mixer copes with a 600ml carton so I did 3 separate batches yesterday.  1.8 litres of cream (3 x 600ml) made just under 900g of butter.  I portioned the butter into 100g blocks and the buttermilk into 175ml portions as that's how much my scone recipe needs.

I froze 8 of the blocks of butter along with the tubs of buttermilk and the tubs of minced beef mixture.  I also had some chicken stock to freeze as I'd poached some chicken breast in the Crockpot.  I keep saying I need to run down my freezer to clean it out but I can't help filling it up when I get a bargain or two, or free!! 😊

Saturday 10 February 2024

Free food haul


I got my M&S vouchers this week for the last quarter.  I get vouchers for using their credit card which I use to buy everything from food to petrol and pay it off each month.  It was a surprising £11!  I guess Christmas presents and a few vet bills added to my spending total.  So it was very welcome.  I went to M&S this morning with an open mind and was thrilled to find reduced double cream (600ml size) and minced beef (750g.)  I also got some brown sugar (500g) as I have none left and treated myself to a bag of sweets.  Total cost of above was exactly £12.  BUT I had counted it up as £11.17.  I just assumed I'd miscounted until I got home and checked my receipt.  I can hear Sarah shouting at me through the screen!!!  One of the pots of cream had scanned at full price as the yellow sticker doesn't quite cover the original barcode.  So I was overcharged by 83p.  When will I learn??  But hey, all of the above only cost me £1.

On the way back to the car I popped into the community food place and got some chicory, 4 tangerines, a lemon, 2 peaches, a doughnut and a haggis.  My DIL took a tangerine and a peach.  Everything was free.  The lady was very apologetic saying they didn't have very much today but I got a treat, some fresh fruit and a haggis that will make a few meals.  It's currently defrosting in the fridge.

It was a very chocolatey doughnut!!

I've cooked the minced beef with my usual onion/carrots/red lentils mixture to stretch it.  I reckon I can get at least 8 generous portions to pop in the freezer.  I've left it unflavoured so I can use it in various different meals.  I'll make a ton of butter from the cream later and freeze it too.

The weather is still cold and damp here.  Luckily no ice or snow yet which is unusual given other parts of the country do have some.  But I'm still inclined to stay indoors and be a hermit any way! 😊

Wednesday 7 February 2024

On being a hermit

I've found myself in a weekly routine of making butter and starting a sourdough loaf one day.  Then baking the bread and a batch of scones (using up the buttermilk) the next day.  Each keeps me going until the following week.  The bread is sliced and added to the freezer with the freshly made scones.  Sometimes I freeze some of the butter too.

And that's about as exciting as my life gets at the moment (plus sock knitting in front of the woodburner!)  But you know what?  I rather like it that way.  The weather here is continually wet and cold so doing inside tasks is as much as my mojo wants to do!  The dogs still get walked daily but I'm happy to be a hermit the rest of the time.  

A few of my dear friends are feeling exactly the same way!

Although in a fit of 'I must get started on getting the house ready to sell' I replied to a local bike charity's appeal for an IKEA Kallex unit.  I'm donating the above unit that holds all my craft supplies.  A whole load of junk and DIY stuff has just been dumped on it too.  I won't have room for it in a smaller house so it seemed a good chance to get rid of it now.  I'll have a bit more space to work in and finally get that room wallpapered!!  It gets collected on Monday so I need to get some sorting out done asap!

The housing market is starting to pick up so I'm keeping an eye on what's available.  My ideal would be a 2 bed cottage with a decent sized garden in the middle of nowhere but that would just encourage me to become a permanent hermit!!  I don't think I'm anti social but I do crave the peace and quiet I never seem to get just now. 

Sunday 4 February 2024


Well, despite costing me a small fortune the beef was actually delicious! πŸ˜‹ My son and I each had 2 large slices in gravy with roast potatoes and veg for dinner last night.  I then let the joint rest for an hour and sliced it up.  I'm rubbish at carving joints (mainly cos I do it so rarely!) so each slice was a generous 'chunky' one πŸ˜‚  I layered them in a dish and covered it all in the gravy.

I portioned it up this morning for freezing.  The tubs have a large and a smaller slice (these are for my son) and I wrapped single large slices in individual freezer bags with a few spoonfuls of gravy,  In total the joint gave enough beef for 5 tubs, 7 freezer bags plus the 2 dinners last night.  So 14 meals in total makes it £1.53 a serving, still way more than I like to spend on meat.  I could have been meaner in my portion sizes and got more servings.  But I decided some of these would be 'treat' meals for my son so I didn't skimp.

I remember years ago in the 70s when I was a child, my parents had a meat slicer (similar to the above) that carved meat into really thin slices.  As I was 'carving' my chunky slices last night I was thinking 'I bet my mum and dad could have got triple the amount of slices I've got!'  πŸ˜‚

Saturday 3 February 2024

It caught me out this time!!


Eurgh!!!  I got caught out by the price per kg in Tesco this morning.  I'm so annoyed with myself.  I was in a bit of rush so when I was looking at the joints of beef I just saw the £11 part of the price tag.  It was actually in rather large bold numbers and there was signage suggesting beef was on special offer.  I put one in my basket, rushed round to pick the rest of my items and rushed through the checkout.

When I got home, I got the Crockpot out and put the joint straight in so it would be ready for tonight's meal.  I'd promised my son I'd cook him some beef.  I didn't even look at the packaging before it went straight into the wheelie bin!

It was only when I looked at my receipt I realised I'd paid £21.38!!!!!!!  😭😭😭

It had better be the best tasting beef I've ever had!!!

Thursday 1 February 2024

It's all Greek!


My son got one of those themed snack boxes for his recent birthday.  They feature a different country each month and the one he got was all Greek products.  But he doesn't like nuts and my DIL is allergic so I get gifted anything nutty πŸ₯œ And who doesn't love free food? 😊

I'm looking forward to my croissant and biscuits! πŸ₯πŸͺ

These snacks look interesting!

Since I've just scoffed a couple of freshly made scones I'll need to wait until later to test the Greek snacks.  I don't have any jam at the moment so I had them with marmalade and whipped cream!!  I'm using up what I've got and they were good πŸ˜‹ Marmalade is just citrus jam although it's a wee bit tangy! πŸ˜‚