Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Looking forward

Getting the house ship shape in order for UJ to move in and not be surrounded with our clutter is harder than I thought.  I made myself a chart for the week but I am days behind already - I am always too ambitious with these things....Tonight the FH has gone out for a while, and I am going to watch "Lewis" whilst I do the ironing. I'll be back tomorrow with the end of the month finance update; buying an unexpected car won't have helped!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

A little less productive

These late May days are really drawing out now, but I looked at the osprey webcam a minute or two ago and it is still daylight there whilst we are now in darkness - I remember that it stays lighter longer in Scotland, and I am a wee bit jealous, I have to say - I love the light days of summer and if I could string them out longer, I would!

Today hasn't been quite as busy as yesterday, but we have still made progress.  The Volvo ended up at the scrapyard this morning, coasting the last few yards up the road as the clutch actually went as we were on the approach, so that was just in the nick of time!  The smell was quite pungent...We got £130 for it, which went straight to the bank towards paying for the new-to-us Fiesta that the FH is getting on Friday.

I had a little hiccup with the insurance on the Fiesta which is now sorted and the new policy has winged its way to me via email so that I can tax it when I get the MOT certificate tomorrow.

Whilst we were in town at the scrapyard, I went and did a few errands - a quick trip to the shop for some fruit and veg, the banking, and to the yarn shop.  I have been reading on Rhonda's blog at Down to Earth about knitting cleaning cloths, so I have bought some 4ply cotton yarn to make one as my holiday knitting project.  The only thing is that the cotton yarn looks awfully thin, but I have seen that some people knit with two strands of it...I might see how I go with one and then decide.

This afternoon the FH fetched the EFG home from school after her English Language exam and some revision sessions were over.  I heard all about her day and then put in a call to the school to make the powers that be aware of some communication issues which had affected her today - her Statistics teacher had been off sick but they had been scheduled for a lesson/revision session, but no one had put a cover teacher in there.  Then she went to go to an allocated revision room, to find that both of them had been taken over for other lessons.  I was rather persistent with the lady who answered the phone so she put me on to the Head's PA who was very apologetic!

And tonight has been the last gymnastics session for the half-term at the club as we aren't doing it at the weekend, partly because I wouldn't be there anyway but also because of repairs to the gym floor which mean that the room is not available anyway.  I just have the after school class at the village school tomorrow and then I am done until the 12th June.

The weather was rather cloudy and dismal here all day until about 4pm when the sun came out and it got rather hot and sticky here - the humidity seemed to have risen sharply.  I have to say that the coolness of the morning was like a breath of fresh air, and I wasn't exactly complaining.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Wrung out

I feel as if I have managed to wring good value from every hour of the day today!  I started out slowly, gathering pace at my own speed, but I have achieved no end and am now happily looking forward to reading for half an hour or so before falling into a deep sleep!

So what have I been up to?

  • Two loads of washing dried in the sun
  • Cleaned the bath, shower, two washbasins and two loos - still have to clean the floors in those rooms though
  • Swept the hall rug with a handbrush and got loads more dirt out than usual...
  • Swept down the stairs
  • Hoovered the landing
  • Cleared all the clean laundry from the airing cupboard and clothes baskets and put everyone's clean clothes on the beds for them to put away; I put all mine away.
  • Hoovered my bedroom floor.
  • Had lunch, then sat outside in the shade and read a book for an hour - too hot to do anything else!
  • Fetched the chook food delivery, dropped some corn off to a neighbour who keeps ducks.
  • Posted a wee parcel to my dad, and paid my NI contribution at the Post Office too.
  • Strimmed the edges of the front lawn, ready for the FH to cut the lawn, once I had taught him how the mower works - his first time!
  • Washed my car - for the first time since I bought it in January (whoops!) but it looks so lovely now I wish I had done it sooner - I will definitely be doing it again...
  • Phoned the chap about tuning the piano when we come home from the holiday.
  • Cooked the tea
  • Pottered in the garden, dug over half of one of the veg beds until it got too dark to see!
  • Came in and rinsed the dishes so I could load up the dishwasher.
  • And here I am, quite worn out!  I had wanted to get the clothes ironed tonight but I think that will have to wait till tomorrow.
The Volvo is on its last legs and the FH has chosen a wee Ford Fiesta from a local garage so tomorrow I will have to sort out some insurance for that so that we can take ownership Friday before we go away - there is no tax on it at the moment and it makes sense to start the tax from 1st June.  

Hope you have all had a good day today - I am looking forward to this hot weather easing a little in the coming days, although I have no wish to return to the daily downpours we have been enduring before this spell began last week.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Clothes for "free" today

How convenient that the girls have been asking for new clothes for the holiday next week, just as Tesco put on a Double Up Clubcard voucher offer.  Having stashed away about £90 of vouchers, I was able to exchange £50 of vouchers for £100 of clothes today!

Each was able to choose £50 of clothes of their own choice - tops, shorts, trousers, summer sandals, etc which they are looking forward to taking on holiday, so I have got my fingers crossed that this nice weather holds out a little longer.

And it cost me?  Not one penny.  Thanks, Tesco - you have your uses, but I am still not keen on the fruit and veg you sell.  I am not going to be getting quite so many vouchers in the future now that I do more of my shopping at Lidl's.


Do you look in other people's trolleys in the shops?  I do. 

 I was shocked this afternoon in the local Tesco where I was pootling around.  I was in the medications aisle, and a lady came along with a baby in the seat of the trolley and said to her partner/husband, "Oh, I really need some Calpol for him," indicating to the baby, "but it is so expensive!"  Calpol is not THAT expensive, and there are generic versions available, but she walked on by without picking up a bottle from the shelf. 

 So what is so shocking about that?  Well, in the trolley was a large pack of beer with a label on it which said £6, I believe.  I think that most of us would have put the beer back and bought the Calpol.  I was gobsmacked.....and have to keep replaying it in my mind as I can't quite believe that what I saw happening actually really happened.  Did a family actually choose beer over medication for their child?

What a treat!

Clicking through to the osprey webcam just a few minutes ago, I was treated to the sight of the female osprey standing on the side of the nest and the little hatchling in the bottom of the nest, with the two remaining eggs, and then the proud papa alighting on the other side of the nest and watching over them all.  The sun is shining over the Loch of the Lowes behind them and it looked very tranquil there this morning.  A beautiful start to the day!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Tipping the balance

Wow!  Folks, the blog has had over 40,000 page views, and I have made 1000 posts!!  Four years have almost passed since I began this, back in August 2008, and it feels like we have come a long way.  I just wanted to come tonight and thank you for sharing the journey so far - it has been lovely to have you along, and I am very grateful for all the comments and the feedback you share.

I promised a give away when I had got to 1000 posts, and I have been collecting a few small items, but I am hoping to add a little more to that parcel whilst we are on holiday - I do love snooping around different little shops, and charity shops - so I will be doing the giveaway the weekend we come home.

Enough waffling for tonight - see you all soon xxx

Plodding through the week

I don't really know what has happened to this seems to have disappeared in the blink of an eye and I haven't achieved an awful lot!

The EFG is getting through the exams.  She had to have a day at home yesterday due to an upset stomach on Tuesday night, but she didn't miss anything; she is back to school this morning as she has an English revision lesson and then her English Lit exam this afternoon - 2 hours on Blood Brothers and Lord of the Flies.  I had an interesting 20 minutes last night, trying to have a quiet bath and then having her sitting on the floor explaining all the themes and symbolism of Lord of the Flies - if it helps her to get it all straight in her mind, it's all good, as she would say.

The YFG has had her hospital appointment for her ganglion - which had gone down - and came home thinking hard about her future gymnastics training.  The consultant explained that ganglions are actually painless so the pains in her wrists must be coming from strain on her wrists, most likely due to gym.  As she gets taller, there is more strain on her wrists when she is weight bearing on them (cartwheels, handstands, etc as well as taking her weight on the bars), in fact he told us that for every centimetre she grows, the force doubles.  She is tall, so that makes sense.  Do we reduce the training, change to another sport completely, retire from sport outside school, carry on as she is whilst there is no pain and just rest when there is pain???  Too many questions and hard to know.  She wants to continue as she is, and I suspect that she will underplay the pain in order to be allowed to carry on, which is not right, I know.  More talks required, I think.

I have been doing lots of washing this week to clear the washing baskets whilst the weather is so glorious and line drying produces the freshest smelling laundry!  Two loads out there yesterday, and I think four got dried on Monday.  What shall I wash today?  My home made laundry powder is working well and the laundry is smelling fresh and clean, especially with the line drying effect.

And the homeopathy remedies?  I took the first one on Monday evening, and within an hour I felt very rough and continued so for abut 5 hours!  I was supposed to take the second one yesterday morning but had to go out on a governor training course and couldn't afford to be under par, so I didn't take it until the evening, and then the prescribed dose for last evening has been taken first thing this morning.  Nothing much happening from that one yet.  I have to ring the homeopath tonight to report back, so I'll see if I get told off for not taking them at the right times...

Monday, 21 May 2012

Egg-citing news

Do keep in touch with the webcam and blog which keep us up to date with the Ospreys' nest in Scotland - the first egg has begun to hatch - thrilling news...can't wait to see the first chick!!

Catching up!

There has been lots going on, none of it that exciting though!  Normal daily life with the added stress for the EFG of her exams beginning in earnest - she has now added French to the list of subjects which are finished and off the list!

Biology is on the timetable first thing this morning, and the FH has just taken her to school now at 7.35 so that she is there for 8am for a breakfast last minute revision session with the teacher.  She has done every past paper available for the course - all 16 of them - and has scored at least As for all of them, so she is reasonably confident that she can handle whatever the exam holds this morning.  Since Biology is one of her choices for A level, it is a big deal to her to do well in it.  We have wished her lots of luck this morning.

The YFG has a Maths exam today in the usual end of year type exams - she has also worked hard on her revision, so we are hoping that she can just do her best and do her hard work justice.  She is rather nervous this morning, and worried that if she doesn't do well she will get moved down a maths set, but that is highly unlikely!!

The garden is looking very dismal at the moment - the hens have had to be allowed to range across the grass and the veg areas, since their runs have changed into a mire of mud, and the veg areas, which should have the first shoots of growth in them at this time, are still bare earth.  The hens are helping a little, in that they are keeping the weeds down, but we are not at the stage of growth and development that we should have achieved at the middle of May!  The weather has proved very challenging this month, and we are heartened to hear that this week should bring a week of warmer weather - we hope to get seeds planted this week!  So far behind...

I am challenged this morning as the "b" key on this laptop is not working and every time I want to type that key I have to stop the flow of typing and hit it quite hard - very annoying!  It is also making the writing a little stilted in that I am thinking as I type of words I can use to avoid words with that letter in them....sorry!

On Friday, I went to an appointment with a homeopath in the local town.  I spent two hours with him explaining all my medical history - and it was a very comprehensive and thoughtful couple of hours - I thought I had thought of everything when I was preparing for the meeting, but then I seemed to come up with other things from the depths of my memory!  He came out yesterday afternoon with some remedies which I am to start taking today....hopefully, I will feel more alive and fitter in a few months' time.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Waving goodnight!

Still here but have been quite busy.  Will try to catch up with the news tomorrow.  A Christening at chapel in the morning, so I'll pop back in the afternoon xx

Wednesday, 16 May 2012


Does being a Christian mean that I have to allow myself to be taken advantage of?

I am struggling with this one.  A situation has arisen and I described it to a close friend on the phone this morning and explained how I felt, and when she said, "That's not very Christian," I had to agree with her, and say that I knew it wasn't but didn't feel that it was fair that I should be taken advantage of because I am more likely to do something for someone because I am a Christian.

Oh dear!  Thoughts welcome...

Monday, 14 May 2012

Loving Lidl - a rediscovery!

Our Lidl experience began years ago when we lived in Cupar.  There wasn't a Lidl there, but I used to take the childminded children, along with the EFG, to Silverburn Park in Leven, down the coast aways.  There was a Lidl there, and that was our discovery of the German supermarket.

We travelled to Leven about once a month, and we stocked up on all our tinned and paper type goods there, filling the pantry each time.  I was feeding a lot of people back then - the three of us (prior to the YFG arriving), two minded children five days a week, and up to four lodgers at a time!!

Then, after a few years, Lidl arrived in Cupar and I was set - when the YFG was born and I used the big old-fashioned pram again, I could fit two cardboard boxes on the tray underneath and walk down to Lidl to fill them with the shopping.  Fond memories.

Since moving to the Fens, our use of Lidl has been spasmodic.  Up and down.  Depending on how I felt at the time!  

Dissatisfied with the condition of the fruit and veg in Tesco, and with the EFG eating more proteins at the moment, I popped back into Lidl a few weeks ago.  The fruit and veg is lovely, in good condition and very satisfying prices, and there are lots of different kinds of hams, other cold meats, and some very good fresh meats available too.  

I nipped into town today to Lidl, and was pleasantly surprised to come out with a trolley loaded quite well for only just over £27.  It is always better to go alone so that I spend less.

I supplemented the shopping there by nipping into a bigger supermarket to pick up a couple of organic cucumbers, and that was the shopping done.  Result.

What's your preferred shopping method?


(Photo from

Both of the girls have tests today - of very different magnitude!

The EFG has her GCSE French Listening exam today, from 1.30pm for 35 minutes, and the YFG has an end-of-module science test at 11.15am.  

We are now in the midst of the GCSE period - the exams may only just be kicking off really but the revision has been in full swing for weeks, and the folders of past papers have grown thick and dog eared!  She is working hard, and hoping for good outcomes.

The YFG is only Year 8 so hers are still important to her, but not on the same level as the GCSEs.  She is taking them seriously, though, and spent yesterday afternoon with her head in a revision book, and then made herself a comprehensive set of revision notes on the laptop.  She has gone off to school with those tucked into her bag for some last minute recaps on the bus.  

They have both gone to school with Good Luck wishes ringing in their ears.

Spanner in the works

Just when I thought I had all the after school activities sorted out and on an even keel, the ballet teacher has asked if the YFG would like to do another class a week.  "She's doing very well and could do the exam next March if she attended two classes," she said.  I replied that I would talk with the YFG about it and think about it all - we need to think about how it would fit in and the extra cost implications.  Another evening out of the house, even for a short time, has an impact, and it would involve another hour in town with nothing to do.  OK in the summer when I can sit in the car and read a book, but an hour wasted in winter when it would be cold and miserable in the car park.

Time is the commodity under pressure here at the moment, and I am struggling to accommodate more activities, so there will be more talking before we decide about this.  I am veering, as you can tell, towards the "No" camp!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Talent indeed

Johnathan and Charlotte belted out a fantastic number tonight, and came second on BGT's Final show.

Huge congratulations to Ashleigh and Pudsey the pooch, who won tonight, but I think that J&C are ones to watch in the future!  At only 17 and 16 respectively, they both seem mature beyond their years, and we would definitely buy a CD if they get to make a record - I do hope a label snaps them up quickly!  

I am sure that HM The Queen will love Pudsey at the Royal Variety Show, so we will join her in looking forward to that later in the year!  

Friday, 11 May 2012

Join the Monkees

What this woman did in the last couple of days is truly amazing; she organised a Love Flash Mob to raise over $80,000 to benefit two women with enormous challenges in their lives.  And she facilitated it all, encouraged and empowered people to give just as much as they could, but no more than $25.

Over 5000 people donated a little, and the results are HUGE.  The impact of the event on the two women will be huge, and it will have a lasting effect on the lives of their families as well.

I would urge you to follow this blog, perhaps follow their Facebook page, and if a mission touches you in the future, perhaps you will find it in you to donate a little next time.  Every penny counts, and all the pennies really do add up.  I made a small donation, and that was enough.  When I read of the two women for whom the appeal was being made, I thought to myself how easily either one could have been me.  I have been so blessed with healthy children, and although my own health is not robust, I am in a far better place right now than either of those two ladies.  I truly admire their strength of spirit and their dogged determination to do the best for their families - these are inspirational ladies who deserve help.

I freely admit that many times when I read this lady's blog, I am crying as it is so moving.  Love really does make the world go around.

Errand day

Some of the organisational websites like Flylady recommend that one has an "errand day" on which the shopping, library visits, trips to the post office and bank, etc are all accomplished at the same time.

This is what Thursdays are becoming here, but not through any grand plan to follow a good idea - just because it happens like that!  The YFG and her friend need a lift on a Thursday from one town to the other for their piano lesson at 4pm - they have half an hour each and then the friend's mum brings them home at 5pm.  This leaves me free and in town at 4pm - perfect for doing things!  The YFG is being entered for her Grade 1 exam this term, so I had that to pay for (£33.50!!) as well as the lesson.

So yesterday, I went armed with a list.  I bought a bag of Picasso potatoes (25kg for £5.50), picked up my glasses from the optician where a new side had been fitted because they broke (£15), collected the YFG's ballet leotard from the dancewear shop (£17.50), nipped into the library and changed my books, dashed in to the Co-op for some pitta breads for myself and then into Lidl's for food/cat food, and returned home at about 5.20pm after calling in at the shop that does embroidery on sportswear where the gym club had ordered some hoodies which were ready for collection.

Now, convenient and economical as all this was to do on one day, the effect on the bank balance was dramatic - I spent £100+  in less than an hour!!  Thank goodness that the rest of the week had so far been made up entirely of No Spend Days, and I expect I shall have more this week.

The other thing to say about this is that I love the way we live close to a town like this which is still vibrant and humming with activity - there aren't the greengrocers, but there are butchers, bakers, and candlestickmakers (well, a jolly good hardware/ironmonger shop!) and lots of individual shops as well as smaller chainstores like Heron Foods and Boyes, Holland & Barrett, Boots, M&Co, several independent clothes stores, including a bridalwear shop which does the most amazing window displays, and some gift shops as well as the usual banks, estate agents, and charity shops.  I did mourn the demise of a bookshop, and it wasn't for lack of my patronage that it closed as I was often in there!  Probably better for my bank balance that it did close, but nevertheless the town is slightly the worse off for it not being there any longer.

If I can't buy what I want between this town and the internet, I don't need it - and I hate "shopping" as a recreational activity so schlepping around a big shopping centre or a big city is totally out of my comfort zone!  I will make a trip into Cambridge to the shops once every year or two, but only then because I enjoy going to the Lakeland store for a look at the new products (and sometimes I succumb!), and being fitted properly at Bravissimo, which is always worth the effort!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

I don't want it!

I have just been horrified to receive a new credit card through the post with the latest Contactless technology embedded in the chip!  I knew that my current card on that account was due to expire, but I really didn't want one of these.

I watched a documentary about them a while back which proved that these cards are emitting a signal which could be picked up by someone walking past one closely with a special reader - so someone just has to bump against me in the street, and they could have my information...

Now I know that I don't live in a huge metropolis which is heaving with the criminally minded, but I am not taking chances with this.  It is safely put away in a box in the desk, and will only be used, as it normally is, for purchases made at  home.  I am definitely not walking around with it in my bag.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Super pizza tea

The YFG came home full of inspiration from her Food Tech class, and wanted to make pizza for tea.  Not just a basic pizza, though - she had design thoughts in her head!

She put onion and herbs in the pizza base, and then she made a stuffed crust, and then layered it up with tomatoes and cheese with mushrooms for those who like them.

I was so pleased that she did it entirely on her own - apart from the washing up, of course...but the FH and UJ declared it the best home made pizza ever [excellent - she now has a speciality!].

I wished I had taken a photo.

And other good news - four No Spend Days in a row.  I made a donation to the collection at church on Sunday, and the EFG will have her piano lesson tomorrow, but that is not counted here as "Spending" for NSDs as they are pre-arranged.  I have avoided nipping to the shops for anything, and so there is more money in the purse.  It is just as well, as the current account has dipped quite low as I have transferred a significant amount to savings, and I am determined not to move it back!!

Laundry powder blitz

I haven't done any washing since the weekend with all the rain that we have had - all the washing lines were full so there was limited drying space.  However, thinking about putting a load on this morning, so I brought out the home made laundry powder from last week again, and blitzed it well and truly in the Kenwood food processor.  The grated soap has become very much finer in size and shape, and hopefully will dissolve more readily.

I have put on a towel load and they are just about done, so I am off to hang them out and see if they smell of Fairy soap again - that will bring back fond memories of days spent at my grandmother's house when I was a child.  She had green Fairy soap in all the bathrooms and in the kitchen as well. It is still green all these years later; I don't think they have changed the design at all.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Oh, the relief!

Determined to see if there was another option, I did some very concentrated and deep digging around on the internet yesterday afternoon, and dug up some information which had previously eluded me.  And I was SO pleased!!

There is a 50% discount available on the EFG's annual train fare to Sixth Form college - what a difference that will make!  The current price for the annual ticket on that journey is £1880, so we are looking at only £940 which means that my travel fund stands at just under half of the total amount, instead of only a quarter.

What a blessing!

There was more good news in that I found a city bus route which covers the area where the college is and links to the railway station.  Her train home in the evening is not until 6pm, and she was concerned that the college's free shuttle bus would have her at the station by about 4.30pm and she would have to hang about there, able to do little constructive,  until 6pm.  This news about the alternative bus means that she will be able to work in the college library for at least an hour at the end of the day before making her way on the bus to the station.  This will cost me about £40 a month but the total cost will still fall under the original train fare estimate, and leave me about £400 better off.  And she will not waste that time!

Just now the EFG is working very hard on her revision for the first science exams of the season which are in two weeks' time.  She has completed her GCSE Art & Design, so she has many more hours in the day now to do other things, and we are looking forward to attending the exhibition of all the art pieces at the end of June.  It will be lovely to see all the art hanging properly!  She will then get it home in October.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Voucher success

I went to the supermarket and made use of the £10 off voucher last night after gym.  The EFG was with me and we were armed with a list of the necessary items.  I totted up the spending as we were going round so that I knew how much it was going to come to at the checkout.  I wasn't far out, given that I was rounding a little.

I stocked up on lots of tins that the storecupboard was running low on, bits and pieces for the freezer and fridge, and some toiletries which will be used over time.  Then the weekly basics like cheese, quark, bacon and fresh fruit and veg were added and we were done.  Even though I had the voucher, I still didn't buy a few things like cat food that I know are cheaper in Lidl.

The shocking thing was that we had only taken one of the shallow trolleys,  not a huge deep one, and we hadn't overfilled it, and still we managed to spend the £80 required to use the voucher.  It was frightening how quickly the spending added up to a significant sum - a pointer indeed to how hard we have to work these days to keep the supermarket spending under control.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Electrical changes

(Photo courtesy of

Today has been the day I finally found a few minutes to look at the electricity prices!  As we are high users according to Utility Warehouse, I knew that there might be some value in changing to another provider.

Having tracked the electricity usage for 26 weeks or more, I know that our average is 130 units a week.  High, I know, so the first thing is to buy those units for less, and then to continue to work to reduce the number of units - a win, win situation.

I went onto a comparison website and established which would be the cheapest deal.  I found that Scottish Power have a fixed rate deal until next June, and it is an internet only account.  Suits me.  Having inputted our usage at 52 times 130, it estimates our bill to be about £500 a year less than I am paying UW, so I will be well pleased if that turns out to be the case.  I am expecting them to set us a DD of about £70 a month.

In order to make the application, I went to Quidco to see if there is a cashback offer available and sure enough, there is!  Because we only have electricity, I only qualified for that deal, but I should be getting £21 back through Quidco, which is an improvement on the £15 that the comparison site was offering.
The tariff also includes a discount of £10.50 at the end of the year - it will be taken off our bill once we have been there for a year, I expect.

That sounds to me like a good day's work.  Have you saved any money today?

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Evening all!

Lovely to have so many people reading and commenting lately!  Just popping in to say a quick Hello tonight as I have had a busy day and can't think straight enough to write anything worth reading....See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Just read this

Goodness me, the times will change then if this happens!  We take water so much for granted that it has just taken me a few minutes to fully think through all the implications of this.  I think sales of water butts are already up but this may push them even higher.

As a governor, I am also thinking about 150 children with no flushing toilets!!  I wonder what measures we will have to look at for the school...does anyone remember when it happened in the seventies?

A lot of us would do well to consider some of Frugal Queen's long term water saving methods.

Spending plans

I have to weigh up two things - I said yesterday that the Grocery spend has to average about £230 a month for the rest of the year and on the other hand, I have a voucher offering a significant 12.5% off from one of the major supermarkets.

The challenge then is to get the most value from that and to stock up on things we need, things we use regularly, and things that won't deteriorate for being kept for some time.

If I spend £80, the voucher will get me £10 off, so I get £80 of items for just £70.  Some people would say that it is a gimmick, a trick, to get us into the supermarkets to spend money.

Sometimes I would agree - every time that I go into the Co-op and no matter how much I spend, I get a coupon for £3 off a £30 shop.  But I don't usually spend that much in there, and their prices are slightly above average, although as I have said before, I do appreciate and admire their ethics.  In these economic times, though, my first thought is for my family's best value.

So this morning, I am going to do my research, investigate our cupboards, look at our meal plan records, perhaps have a look at a few comparison websites, check out the freezer, and think about what we need.  If I do my part, I can get the best value out of that coupon, and make it matter.

Then I will make a list, and probably even cost it on the online shopping website so that I can be sure it comes to £80 and not too many pennies more.  

And will my time be well spent?  Remember for a lot of people that a tax free pound saved is worth more than an extra pound earned!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

What are you up to?

Rhonda asks what we are doing today, as her day has recently begun - tomorrow for me!  So I'm going to tell you what I got up to today!

6.45am The alarm goes off and I go to make sure that the girls get up.

7am The girls and I make it downstairs and start on breakfast.  Sometimes I have to make sandwiches, sometimes they have made their own the night before.  The YFG gets her breakfast - two chocolate Weetabix with milk (the same thing, day in, day out) and I make scrambled egg or an omelette for the EFG to fit in with her diet programme.  In between doing this, I make my porridge in the microwave and go into the lounge where the dining table is.  I usually put Breakfast on and catch up on the news.

7.30am I turned on the laptop and check the emails, the bank, eBay and some blogs!  Replying to the emails, checking and recording the bank balances and inputting my spending into the spreadsheets occupies about 25 minutes until the girls leave the house to catch the bus at 7.55am.  I always wave them off.

At 8am I took the FH a cup of tea and went up to see how he was.  The Colchicine for his gout brought on diarrhoea yesterday and he spent the day in bed, watching Fred Dibnah DVDs, reading and sleeping.  Today he felt a lot better and got up.

Then I went outside to let the chooks out at 8.15am.  They are always delighted to get out in the fresh air and spill from the sheds like little arrows, shooting out to find some food for breakfast.

At 9am, I was back inside the house, having another cup of tea, and going to get dressed in decent clothes!  I never get dressed until I have done the outside chores as I invariably end up muddy and have to change again.  The FH had come down and was getting some breakfast.

This morning I spent the bulk of my time at the computer, emailing with the Headteacher about several situations going on at school, typing up the minutes of a committee meeting which happened last night, phoning the Clerk for some advice, answering a phone call from the Head Coach and accepting the offer of some potatoes from him, and then finalising the spending records and altering the budget for the end of April.  I wrote a blog post about that too!

Lunchtime came at 1pm as usual as the FH settled down to watch the One O'Clock News.  That is our ritual at that time.

After lunch, I got caught up with some housework and cleaned the bathrooms upstairs, swept the kitchen floor, and then did a spot of ironing.  Just a little - the FH has finished it for me whilst I have been out.

At 3pm I left the house, called in at the school, dropped off two letters at people's houses on my way to pick up the girls from school at 3.30pm.  We then dropped "Alice in Wonderland" off at a friend's house as she wanted to borrow a copy for her class on Thursday.

By 4pm we were setting up the gym for the first class to arrive at 5pm.  We managed to get a cup of tea in before the class began and then we were off!  The first class was 5-6pm, the second from 6-8pm, and then I came home.  The FH had cooked the tea for us which was very welcome when we got home at about 8.30pm.  I had the last slice of one of these lovely cakes for pudding!  I made it on Sunday.

And now I have to put the laundry away in the airing cupboard, clear up the kitchen for the night, and retire to bed to read, possibly after a bath.

Hope you have all had a good day xx

End of the month finance

April seems to have flown past - and with all that rain we have had, we seem to have spent most of it indoors around the fire, so thank goodness for the woodburner and plenty of free wood.  A friend brought us some enormous and ancient fenceposts from a relative's house in Hunstanton, and the FH chopped them into large chunks, so we have been burning them slowly - one chunk easily lasts 90 minutes or so, so they are very economical to burn and give out a good heat.

Looking at the April line on the spreadsheets, some things are looking on track, and some areas definitely need to be cut back!

  • I have found a cheaper supplier for bottled gas (£58 a bottle instead of £75 - result!) so I have been able to reduce that budget by a little.
  • Spending on the garden has been halved as we have all the seeds and compost we need for the year, I hope, and still a little money in the pot.
  • I had over budgeted for the landline - we seem to be underspending on that each month, so I have brought that down.
  • Grocery spending continues to be slightly over budget, but instead of increasing the budget, I will be implementing other measures, so stay tuned.  Our average for the rest of the year needs to lie at about £230.
  • The new diesel Skoda means that I have been able to reduce the fuel budget a little.
  • The school activities budget has been supplemented by a further £100, especially since the YFG has been offered a trip to London to the theatre to see "The Woman in Black" and I have written the cheque for that today.  I usually let the girls go on school trips because they are good for expanding their horizons and I would personally not take them to the theatre in London myself!  This to me is money well spent.
  • I have reduced the holiday budget by £100 as there seems to be plenty of leeway in that one.
  • I haven't had time to look into the electricity supplier but I remain convinced that there are still savings to be made there.
These changes have allowed me to start up the Travel fund for the EFG officially on the spreadsheet.  Our income is relatively fixed although I am in the process of talking to someone about running some more after school gym clubs, which may come off and provide a little more income.  

Seeing how other people have posted their budgets online, I am not going to do that, as I have far more categories than most, and it would be a huge table, but it works for me.  As we enter the second third of the year, it seems to me to be a good time to take stock and see what is working, and what needs to be taken under stricter control.  A spot of stocktaking in the cupboards should also be on my agenda.

How is your budget looking?

Getting into hot water

I tried the hot water dissolving method with the laundry powder this morning, and came to the conclusion that perhaps I need to blitz it in the food processor as well - the hot water (and I used boiling water from the kettle) does not actually dissolve the grated soap in my mixture.

I am very pleased with the quality of the cleaning, though, and the pleasant smell which the soap leaves - it is quite faint and the washing I managed to line dry yesterday have a truly lovely line-dried smell - much better than any chemical smell you could add to the wash.

Guess I had better get the blitzing done!

Laundry powder update

In the comments section of the last post, Susan raised a very sensible query - was there a risk of the grated soap clogging up the washing machine when only low temperatures are used?  I headed over to the Down To Earth forums on Rhonda Jean's blog where I knew that there would be plenty of experienced users - and I got some excellent answers:

  • Some people blitz the powder in a food processor so that the grated soap is really broken down into a finer powder;
  • Other suggest dissolving the measure of powder in a jug of hot water each time that they do a wash, which I would guess is having the best mixing the powder and storing it dry but then being able to use it as a liquid.
I think I am going to try the dissolving it in hot water method but let us all know how you get on!