Friday, 31 January 2014

Just another manic Friday!

Fridays seem to be more manic here than Mondays.

The EFG has had an eye test and needs a new pair of glasses, so she has the frames of her choice but is going to contribute to the cost, which seems fair, as she chose a more expensive pair than was strictly necessary.  She's also endured a filling this morning, poor thing!

She and I have been baking this afternoon for the cooking show tomorrow and the macarons she made yesterday went down very well at the coffee morning at the chapel today - £95 raised, and a good start to the weekend.  My cheese scones were also praised, which cheered me up!

Gym tonight, then came home to tea and Silent Witness, after which I have made some more chocolate florentine-ish concoctions for tomorrow and iced the mini Bakewell bites that the EFG made earlier.  I am off to bed now and then I shall get up and make cheese scones in the morning as well as sorting and gathering all the ingredients and implements for the cooking show.  It will be fun!  Gym tomorrow morning until 1pm and then home to change and the show kicks off at 3pm.

Hope you all have a good weekend, and are able to stay safe, warm and dry in this next bout of atrocious weather which is hitting these shores again xx

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Just a bit of baking this evening

The EFG has been busy in the kitchen with me this evening - she made this spinach, ricotta and feta cheese tart, with peas and garlic in it too.  She and the FH declared it yummy, but the YFG passed it over in favour of two boiled eggs!

Then the EFG made these raspberry macarons from a Sainsbury's kit, which was fun.  There were several more but they got overdone and had to be eaten for quality control, if you know what I mean!

I've made some cheese scones and some ginger cake, all for a chapel coffee morning tomorrow.  Which I won't be able to go to because I scheduled the EFG for an eye test and a filling on the same morning, without checking the diary.  So I am baking out of guilt as well as duty!

The cooking show is in production - we have bought all the ingredients for the recipes this evening, and we are on the case!

Diet dilemmas

There was a very interesting programme on tv last night, a Horizon investigation into fat and sugar in the diet and what damage each was responsible for in the body.  Identical twin doctors, Chris and Xand, each followed a prescriptive diet, one high in fat and one high in sugar/carbs.  There were some surprising outcomes, like the way that the high fat/no sugar diet brought that twin closer to pre-diabetes than the twin who ate a high sugar diet.  That was eye-opening.  They shared the reasonable idea that fad diets which exclude whole food groups are in the long term unsustainable and probably not that healthy.

The real point, for me, of the programme was the information that the fat and sugar combination is the real killer.  A 50:50 balance of fat and sugar in a food apparently makes that food almost irresistable to us, and also switches off the natural "I'm full" feeling that either fat or sugar gives when consumed separately.  Given that they said that this combination is unavailable in nature and only occurs in processed food, it seems that the modern drive for processing and convenience may be what is making the developed world fat.

Food for thought, if you'll pardon the pun!

Wednesday, 29 January 2014


My patient is improving slowly, and it is a lesson for my patience.  In a week where I have lots to do to prepare for a cooking show at the chapel on Saturday, it is a lesson in sitting still and just being, when that is what is required.

When the temperature makes her cranky, and the coughing makes her sore, she wants a hug.  Sometimes she wants a hug until she falls to dozing again, and that takes time, that I have to find.  I have the same number of hours in the day every day, and it is a good thing for me to learn to choose wisely.  

It is about the things left undone these past days, as much as things done.  

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Excuse me for a while

The YFG has got the flu.  Not just a cold, but flu - I'm fairly certain.  She aches all over, particularly her head and eyes, can't be bothered to move, has a temperature and no voice.  She woke up, discovered how she felt, burst into tears, and collapsed back into bed, where she has been ever since. She's laying there in the dark, with a cold flannel on her eyes.  I have given her some paracetamol and I hope she will sleep again now.  Caring for her as well alongside the FH is going to be full-time, I think, so I just hope he doesn't catch it from her, although he has had the jab; lots of washing of my hands is on the agenda, and trying to keep them apart, I suppose.  She hasn't been this poorly since she had swine flu about four or five years ago.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Construction frustration

There is the expensive way of doing something, which is sometimes the easiest way, and then there is the FH way.

We have to resurrect an old chook house in order to move some of the chooks onto some fresh ground, but there are parts of the house which are beyond repair - the floor and the roof.  The easy thing to do would just be to buy a new little house, probably for about £100.  It would come flat-packed and I would spend an afternoon with an allen key and put it together, like I did the last one I bought, several years ago.  But we are doing it the FH way, so one day last week, we made the floor.  Today, we made most of the roof, and we have it ready to felt tomorrow.  Then we have to find some new hinges, repair the nest box area in the house, and put it all back together - it is sectional.

The FH hasn't been doing anything in his workshop for the best part of a year, and so it comes hard to him, especially at this time of the year when it is cold.  So I am required to be there to help him, and I am pleased to be there, because it IS for MY chooks, when all is said and done.  BUT there is a good deal of moaning, muttering, the odd cussing, and lots of generally dismal thoughts shared.  Just keeping the positive mood in the room is hard work, even before I hammer a nail too close to my fingernail...

I don't think I would have been good enough a carpenter to work with Noah on his ark, but the way the rain keeps coming down, I am sure someone must have thought about building another one somewhere very soon.  I am sure that the poor people living on the Somerset Levels must be wishing for some kind of rescue vessel.

I have been reading Elaine at MFin3 today about making dulce de leche in her pressure cooker, and I am sure that a pressure cooker will be on my shopping list by Christmas.  They seem incredibly useful, but since neither my granny nor my mother had one, they are beyond my sphere of experience and I seem to be managing quite well without one so far.  I shall think about that one some more.  I dare say that some of you would recommend them - has anyone had any bad experiences with a modern one?

Monday morning comes around again

Actually, I know some people really dread Mondays but I like Mondays the way I love September and the New Year - it is a chance to start again, on however small a scale!

I have had a quick check through the bank balances this morning, and when I go outside in a minute, I need to read the electricity meter - I keep the key to the meter cupboard in my outdoor coat pocket these days - saves trying to come in in muddy boots to fetch it from the utility room shelf!

I need to scuttle around the house quickly and do some housework this morning, and then I have to pick up the YFG from school and take her to Peterborough hospital to meet a physiotherapist about the headaches she gets.  The consultant we saw before Christmas seems convinced that the headaches stem from knots in her neck, but the YFG doesn't think that the physio will do much good since she herself believes that the headaches are sinus-related.

I filled the car with diesel on Saturday and so I am planning a no-spend day.  I need to have a run of them this week to stay in my budget for the month, and in reality there is nothing we need.  With the AF order coming next week, and the weekend shop at Aldi done, we have a full fridge, larder and stores!

The end of the month is looming, and so I need to gather everyone together to sort out the February menu plan.  I think I shall present them with a list of the available ingredients and see what they can come up with, bearing in mind the daily constraints of time and people available to cook.  I am firmly in favour of the whole meal-planning scenario as it has been amazing this month [again!] to have the plan in place on the wall in the kitchen, and not to have to try to work out what to cook each day.  It has also helped to balance out the different kinds of meals we enjoy.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

A slower Sunday

After taking the service this morning, it felt like the rest of the day was mine.  I could relax a little and not worry about needing to do this, that or the other.  I had a cuppa when we got home from church and sat down to pootle round a couple of blogs and MSE.  Then I pulled the tupperware of leek & potato soup out of the fridge, and the FH and I had some lunch.  The girls had not long had their breakfast so we left them to their own devices.

This afternoon, I have spent some time with the YFG sorting through her revision books and helping her to work out what she needs to do.  The amount of homework that she is getting is nowhere near what I got at her age, and even in this modern age, still not as much as the EFG got in the same year group three years ago.  The school is trying to drive up standards and aims for the children to achieve, but seems reluctant to give homework.  Whatever the folk at the top say, I firmly believe in homework, and so in some ways, we are going back to some of our home-education ways, and she will be doing some consolidation work at home.  Now that the course is linear with all the exams at the end [the way things used to be!], she has got to learn to retain the information for much longer, so all the consolidation she can get will help her.  This is something that she understands our concern about because she saw how much work her sister did, and realises that she doesn't "get" everything.

Here’s where I shop…
(image from

I managed to work my way through the Approved Food website and find enough that I wanted to put together an order to make use of my free delivery code.  I ordered some of the Gluten-free breadmix that Froogs was recommending too, so I shall look forward to making some of that bread and hoping it tastes good.  All I have to compare it with is Sainsbury's Free From bread, which is OK but really not brilliant and quite expensive.

(image from

We three girls spent some time on the sofa this afternoon, watching a film called the Robot and Frank....I may have been Frank and the Robot!  Anyway, it was a good film on Netflix and one we had been trying to watch for some weeks.  It deals quite sensitively with a man in the early stages of some kind of dementia where he is clearly losing his memory and the ability to recognise people.  The FH is battling with a 500 piece puzzle - it isn't huge but it does have an overabundance of foliage on it, which always bamboozles him rather.  He is still struggling tonight, and he has been at it on and off all day.

(image from

The supper was cooked whilst Countryfile was on, and then the FH retired to his puzzle whilst we watched Call the Midwife: he always thinks there is a little TMI, but we enjoy it.  I have read all of Jennifer Worth's books and found them very interesting, particularly her attitude to death.  I shall probably read them again and again!

I would like to tell you that I spent some time knitting or doing crochet, but I didn't.  I will get back to it soon because I find it very relaxing.  One thing at a time.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

A bit of a day

Late up

Short staffed at the gym

Hurry home to get tomorrow's service down on paper

Plan the service and think about the sermon

Diffuse an argument between the girls about who is coming shopping

Take the YFG and go shopping 

The most torrential rain and terrible thunderstorm happened whilst we were in Aldi

Drive home in heavy rain and get shopping unpacked

Collapse and read the paper with a cup of tea

People start asking when supper will be ready

Make soup [leek and potato] - very grateful the FH has prepped the veg!

Eat soup.....

Write sermon plan.

Have a cup of tea.

Write sermon out longhand.

Have another cup of tea and hang some washing up to dry.

Type sermon on EFG's laptop by the fire.

Print sermon.


Bed.  11pm......Night night xx

Friday, 24 January 2014

Early start

I have been sitting here early this morning, catching up on blogs, checking the bank account, and reading a forum or two.  I seem to be too far behind in some of them to make any useful comments, but at least I read and I am grateful for the shared wisdom that the resource provides - I do contribute when I can.

The EFG has an early appointment this morning so I have had to rise and shine before the dawn chorus today!  Still, plenty to do so not a problem to get going a little earlier than normal.

I am struggling to really believe that we are heading for the end of the month at a rate of knots already! It only seems like the blink of an eye since it was Christmas, but here we are, weeks later, and the weather is just beginning to turn colder - we have a frost in the Fens this morning and there is a weather warning out for ice until 11am today.

Pleased to say that so far, this month has been going well.  There are lots of things I haven't done yet, but also plenty happening as planned, so can't complain.  I shall do an end-of-the-month finances round up when we get there, but so far, I think I am on track, and that is even with some unexpected extra expenses [deposit on flat in Aberdeen, three-year student railcard, Biology text book, double hit on Car insurance, etc].  Heads are definitely above water at the moment.

We are heading into the last week or so of the planned menu and the girls have requested more input into the February meal plan, so we are thinking about what we all like and they have been told to come up with some suggestions this time......cottage pie and fish pie have already been put forward.  I shall be making an order up for AF this weekend too, so my stock cupboards will get some replenishment, what with that and an Aldi shop this week.  The grocery challenge has had to go out the window for the forthcoming week because I need to spend some dosh on food at last!

Hope you all have a good day, and keep warm if it is chilly where you are.  If, however, you are in Australia, I'm envious!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Baby Bakewells

Look what the EFG made tonight whilst I was out with the YFG at the piano lesson:

Baby Bakewells - they are wee mouthfuls of deliciousness, so I am told.

She adapted a recipe she found on the GBBO website, and miniaturised them.  There were 24 made, I understand, but the FH has been involved in quality control to a greater degree than strictly necessary!

Baked tomato and mozzarella pasta

Trust me, the gang tell me that this tastes a LOT better than my photo looks!

The family had this on Meatfree Monday this week: it is a dish I gleaned from one of the Sainsbury's free "Live well on less" magazines, but it was originally made with spaghetti.  This time I made it with wholewheat fusili to make it a bit healthier for the EFG.  They say that they prefer the fusili to the spaghetti, so that's how I shall make it in the future.

The recipe is simple:  just cook 400g pasta in a pan of boiling water to al dente, and then keep warm.  Preheat the oven to about 180C.
Fry one chopped onion in a saute pan, with a clove of garlic added after a few minutes and then pour in two cans of chopped tomatoes.  Cook all this together for about 10 minutes, and then add a teaspoon of sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes.
Prepare a shallow ovenproof dish - mine is about 11 x 8 inches and pyrex.  Boil the kettle.
Drain the pasta and pour the pasta into the tomato sauce and mix well to coat the pasta with the sauce.
Tip this into the ovenproof dish, and add half a cup of boiling water.  Tear a ball of mozzarella into small pieces and tuck in to the pasta mixture, spaced around the dish.  Sprinkle 50g of grated cheese over the top [I used grated mozzarella] and pop into the oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.  

This makes 6 servings, and so I have extras to pop into the freezer and bank for another day.

The costings for this are as follows and using Sainsbury's prices:

400g wholewheat fusili = 76p [95p/500g pack]
2 tins tomatoes = 68p [34p/400g carton Basics]
1 clove garlic = 5p [35p/bulb garlic]
1 onion = 6p [95p/1.5kg [about 15 onions Basics range]
1 ball mozzarella = 55p [Basics]
50g grated mozzarella = 29p [£1.15/200g Basics]

so for 6 portions, this works out to about 40p a portion - bargain....

You could serve this with salad, or with garlic bread, I should think.  They ate it just as it came!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Slower days

Last week, the FH and I enjoyed some days at home. Days where the cars didn't move off the drive and we didn't even venture out the front door.  Days when I wore my scruffy house/garden clothes all day.
Peaceful days that he spent most doing jigsaws, staying awake instead of nodding off by the fire, so that he slept much better at night.

Days when I "got things done" like sorting out the car insurance, juggling the monthly budgets around to allow me to pay for a combined policy instead of two separate ones, but now they both renew in January instead of spreading the cost over January and February!

Days when there was time to pull leeks from the garden, peel UJ's potatoes and enjoy a free lunch of leek and potato soup - warm, comforting and very filling.  And we love it so much that we did that on more than one day.

This week my days at home need to include re-arranging the chicken houses so that the chooks are less muddy, sorting out a mammoth ironing heap [again, I know.  Kids should have fewer clothes.] I have to spend time looking at the EFG's finances for her hoped-for new life in Aberdeen, and what she will be able to afford.  We've got forms to fill in for scholarship applications too.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Aldi voucher this week

Reliably notified that there will be a £5 off a £40 spend at Aldi voucher available on Thursday in the Daily Mirror and the Daily Record [Scotland].  Once again, it will be valid for a week, so for some people, it might be worth considering buying two papers and doing two shops, if you have a family and need that much shopping.  Hope that info helps someone xx

Hold back and save

Sometimes, waiting is one of the best strategies for saving money.  Putting off a purchase whilst you make jolly sure that you want the item is one way of looking at it, and delaying renewing a membership to s-t-r-e-t-c-h the time covered is another way.

What comes to mind this morning, though, are the discounts that retailers will use to reel us back in if we haven't been shopping with them lately.  A lot of them do it, and it is of course false economy to go and spend vouchers if the items are not things you really really need.

I have been holding off with an Approved Food order for a while - I know I need to stock up in some departments of the stores here, but with the delivery charge at £5.25 for 25kgs of shopping, you really have to make every penny count.

Yesterday, I received an email from Dan at AF, offering me a unique code [so I can't share it, apparently - shame!] for Free Delivery on the first 25kg of an order, as long as I order before midnight on the 27th of the month.

I think I just might take him up on that.  The delivery charge is the one downside I find with AF, so if I can have my delivery for free, I shall be much more likely to go and have a virtual skate down the aisles and see what I can find that would fill some holes in the stores.  There is a lot of junk food on the website, I feel, but the golden nuggets are also in there and waiting to be found.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Free book

Elaine's compilation of tips book called "Frugal Stuff that works" is available FREE on Amazon today in the Kindle version.  If you don't have a Kindle, you can still download and read on your computer as there is a free download of the Kindle reading app also available.

I've ordered it to be sent to the EFG's Kindle, so I have to go and have a wee rummage on her shelf and see if I can find it - I'm looking forward to reading all the hints and tips, and seeing whether she used the one I submitted!

If you want it for free, I think it is available just until Friday: after that, you would have to pay!  

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Lesson of the day

Before you travel to a chapel you have only ever visited once, over a year ago, make sure to check the map.  When you leave the house 45 minutes before the service starts and find yourself in the middle of the flat plains of the Fens, with no landmarks in sight and not a soul to guide you, you will start to panic.  You will flag down passing white vans, and even they may not have heard of the place you want to be!  You will look frantically in the boot for the map book - it won't be there....and you will fall happily into a small newsagent's shop and the kindly chap behind the counter will take pity on you and draw you a map!  You will make it to the chapel with FOUR minutes to spare.  The congregation will forgive you.......and even ask you to come again.

Such was my morning.  The congregation were amazingly welcoming and I shall be delighted if I am asked back there.  It was blessed, and uplifting to be there.

This afternoon, when the FH and I got home, by a more direct route, we sat and talked with the girls for about an hour, and then later on, the FH's son and his friend dropped by, and we talked for another good hour.  Tonight, I have watched "Call the Midwife" sat on my posterior, so I think that I can safely say I have had my fair share of just sitting today.  I hope you have had a restful weekend, and I am looking forward to catching up on some of your blogs tomorrow.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Catching up

Occasionally, a cat's life looks appealing, don't you think?

(image from

Tomorrow afternoon, I plan to sit.  Just sit.  Possibly the tv might be on, the girls may be busy chattering, or doing Just Dance on the Wii, the FH may be doing yet another jigsaw, but I hope to do nothing.

In line with my plan to go slower this year, I am finding that actually, I have to carve out space for "nothing" time, or else there is always something that I could find to do.  As I sit here typing tonight, I could be washing the kitchen floor, starting on the mount of ironing, packing my bag for the morning's preaching, looking through today's receipts [spent money today - whoops!], washing up after dinner......but there comes a time when a body just has to say, "No, tomorrow will do for that."  "Or even Monday!"  I have about an hour now before I need to go to bed, so the washing up will get done, and I will iron my clothes, but I have told the girls that they have to do their own ironing tomorrow.

Knitting and crochet are good for me, in a relaxing sort of way, but even that has a way of making me feel that I should be Doing something - I am conscious that I haven't got anything on a needle this year yet, and I am teased by my mind saying, "Come on, cast on a hat!"  All things in moderation, I think that the wisdom recommends.  Finding moderation would be a start, some days.

Wishing you all a peaceful weekend, with some time to sit and stare occasionally thrown in!  Rest and relax just a bit.

It begins...

The bum-narrowing campaign, that is!  The scales have new batteries so that they can tell me a tale of woe this morning, and I walked two miles yesterday to craft club and back.  I shall pop in and record how I am getting on with Frugal In Bucks, and I shall have to keep track here a little bit as well.  We all know that the basis of losing weight is eating less and moving more, and neither of those things necessarily cost money, so we should be OK.  Don't wish me luck, wish me willpower and motivation!

Friday, 17 January 2014

Menu planning

Menu planning is not my favourite chore, I have to admit, so perhaps that is why I am now finding that planning the whole month is a relief - just do it once and it is done until the next month!  This is also fitting in with our pantry principle way of shopping because we are making the menu up from what we already have in stock, in the most part.  We know what our routine is for this term with gym and piano lessons after school, so it is easier to schedule simple meals on those days each week.  It makes the shopping trip simple because as I make the menu plan, I just jot down odd items that are needed to supplement the stores, and the fresh stuff like cheese and fruit that we need as well.

I have come across a couple of "new" meals that will probably make it on to February's meal plan, which I think that the girls will like as they include pasta!  I am also trawling through Jack's recipes for some cheap and cheerful inspiration - someone posted on FB the other day that there was an article in one of the papers telling us that we cook the same meals day in, day out!  Well, I guess that we have a standard repertoire that we know our families like, but we do enjoy some variation in the Fens.  Eating seasonally is cheap, and when I have leeks growing in the garden, I make soup - I love it!

UJ brought us cabbage and some kind of broccoli [but not the kind you buy from the supermarkets, if you know what I mean - he calls that calabrese] and last week it was kale.  The rabbits enjoyed wee bits of that as he did bring a huge basketful but then I put some through a rissotto one night when the gang were eating something I couldn't, and it was lovely - brought back memories as we used to grow it in Cupar.  I have hinted that we could use some more....and joy of joys, I collected three eggs from the chooks on Monday - they must think it is spring with all the mild weather we have been having!

And I have declared my intentions on Frugal In Bucks blog today - my bum hasn't shrunk any at all so far this year, so I am joining in with her Weightloss Wednesday challenge.  I am starting today, just as soon as I have bought some batteries for the scales so that I can weigh myself!  It won't be good, so I shall just post the ups and downs.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Book review of a thrifty title

Grandma's Ways for Modern Days
I spent half a week looking after someone's chickens a few years ago, whilst they went on holiday.  The YFG went with them for part of the time that they were away, and when they came home, they brought me an egg poaching pan, and this book.  They thought it would be interesting for me - and they weren't wrong.  Some of the girls' friends have called us "old fashioned" but this family understood where we were coming from, and they kept chickens, had fruit trees in the garden, grew some veggies and had a woodburning boiler in an outhouse!

The book is a lovely trot through lots of "old fashioned" type ideas, but with a modern edge to them all.  There are beauty treatments [I should probably try some of those!], household cleaners to make, soap to try, as well as lots of "grow your own" advice before it moves on to backyard livestock - hens, bees and ducks are covered.  Making your own bread, and then butter and cheese appear.  There are sections on cooking family meals, and a bit of home brew too!  Preserving the garden's bounty is also an important section.

I have found lovely hearty recipes in here like Lancashire hot pot and leek & potato bake, as well as Christmas feasts and home made toffee.  I haven't got a favourite section as I just love the whole thing! It is a book for the modern times but with all the wisdom of the past recognised and respected.

(image from

The authors, Paul and Diana Peacock have written other books, and apparently appear on BBC Radio as well as writing the Mr Digwell column for the Daily Mirror.  I can't say that the black-belt tightwad will learn anything from this, but it would certainly be interesting to get it out of the library and have a good nosey through it.  I was very glad to receive it as a gift.

People who influence us

(image from

This lovely lady was a great influence on my life, and she was much beloved of my mother too.  She was my kindergarten teacher when I went to school in Cambridge.  I was in her classroom for two years, and loved her for ever!  My mother kept in touch with her all her life, and up until this year, I always got a Christmas card from her - and I sent her news and photos of the girls.  

She was always fair, gentle and kind at school, and all the children looked upon her fondly.  She had very long days, travelling up from Little Dunmow to Cambridge every day in her trusty old VW Beetle.

She is 90+ now, and was awarded the British Empire Medal in the New Years Honours list in 2013: it was very well deserved as she ran a Lent Soup Kitchen at her home for over 20 years, raising money for Christian charities all those years.  She has always been active in her church and in the community and is very well loved.  

Looking on the internet for a picture of her to share with you, I believe I have also found a picture of her wedding day:

(image from
Little Dunmow, 1945

I am ashamed to admit that I haven't seen her in years, and it should be one of my aims this year to go and see her.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Top Tips

I had a thought this afternoon - a random thought that just popped into my mind, and I laughed.  "TopTips for new students leaving home for university life."  I was reading a guide on the Aberdeen uni website, and this one wasn't there:

#1 - Make jolly sure that there is loo roll left on the roll before you sit down as you won't be asking anyone to fetch you a spare one!

We are going to Aberdeen in March, the EFG and I.  Another adventure is planned but this time we are going north instead of west, and this time the train is taking the strain, instead of me and the Skoda.  The EFG needs to get a 16-25 railcard, and I just have to take the hit and pay the fare as the only way I could get the ticket any cheaper would be to take the YFG with me and have a Friends and Family Railcard.  She can't miss three days of school, so she can't come this time!  I have looked at some of the hotels that the university recommends for people attending this Visiting Day, and they are not cheap - the one that tops the list comes in at £299 a night.  I think not.  But even the "budget" hotels are looking at £99/room for a night.  That seems steep, and would still leave me with the cost of eating out.

But I have a solution.  There are self-catering flats in Aberdeen, and they are relatively reasonably priced - I have booked a one bedroom [twin beds] flat for 2 nights for £130.  For me, that is a bargain and good for my health as I will be in full control of my food, and we will have all the comforts of home.  The deposit was sent off today, and the lady in the office has promised that the time our train gets to Aberdeen [9.15pm!] will not be a problem.

We will arrive on the Tuesday evening, attend the day at the uni on the Wednesday and then have until 2pm on the Thursday to look around Aberdeen a little before we catch the train home.  Hopefully the EFG can catch a doze on the train, because it will be after 10pm when we get home but she will still have school on Friday.

I am enjoying the planning and the scheming to achieve this for as little as I can whilst making sure that we do what needs to be done.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Home clothes?

I am sitting here feeling quite scruffy this morning, with a pair of old yoga trousers on, a warm fleece over a Tshirt, thick socks and a bodywarmer over the lot.  Keeps me warm!  This is the morning kit for today, useful for dealing with the chickens, picking and trimming leeks for soup, and sorting out the laundry.  It has also kept me warm whilst I have been doing some coursework.

I wouldn't dream of stepping out of the front door in this get-up though!

I would have to "get dressed" in order to leave the house or garden.  I tend to dress this way at home in order to save the clothes that I wear to present myself to the world!  It doesn't save much laundering this way, as the clothes still get dirty and need washing, but the point is that the better clothes don't need washing as often, because they are worn less, and so they don't wear out as fast - because I understand that the agitation of the washing machine and the whole laundry cycle probably wears clothes out more than the actual wearing of them!

The girls also do this but in the evenings when they come home from school.  They usually change into leggings, jogging bottoms, or even PJs, in the case of the EFG - she has accumulated about 10 pairs of these trousers!  I bought her a pair for Christmas with penguins on them, and they are a favourite pair now.  All the supermarkets sell them, in cotton mixes for summer and fleece and flannel for winter.  The YFG usually wears leggings, and it is an ideal time for her to wear out the older pairs that might sport the odd hole.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Approved Foods offer

APPROVED FOOD - The biggest online sellers of clearance food and drink

Just had an email from AF to say that there is a delivery discount offer on for TODAY only!

Spend at least £30 on goods and enter the code 2shipdisc at the checkout to get £2 off the delivery charge.  Might be worth a quick skate round the shop to see what they have. Sometimes there are things I want, and other times, I don't need what they have on offer, so I pass.  

Top up shop

There had to be a small extra shop on Saturday to get the lunch meat and a couple of things which I either couldn't find in the Co-op or thought were too expensive in there....

So I have also bought:

Two tins of spaghetti hoops for £1.00 [This is what happens when I shop with help.  I really try to shop alone.]
Risotto rice £1.10 for 500g.  I still think that is expensive but it was cheaper than the Co-op.
Cheese spread £3.00.  This means 3 rounds of Laughing Cow Light Cheese Triangles.  They are good for the EFG as they are only 25 calories a triangle and she uses them instead of margerine in her sandwiches.
And the lunch meat - which is what I went for in the first place - £3 for two packs.

Grand total of £8.10 which I believe takes me just over my £25 for the week ahead, but since last week was under budget, I am not going to panic.

Spending ahead - shouldn't be much!  The FH's £4.50 lunch club on Wednesday and the YFG's piano lesson on Thursday are already worked out and in the budget, and there is everything I need in the house already for the meal plan for the week.

The only thing I have to spend on that I know about is a fish tank for my step-son, who has found it on Gumtree and asked me to get it for him because the seller is much closer to us than to him - but I have hopes of getting that fiver back again!  I have to text the seller today and organise the collection.

Travel Fund

(image from

I have an account designated as a Travel Fund in my bank line up: it started because I needed to save £450 for the EFG's sixth form bus pass.  The account still sits there, even though the last bus pass is bought and paid for, and there is the grand sum of £5.10 in it!

It occurred to me at the weekend that I had missed something out of my budgeting when I was doing all that at the start of the month.

We are going to have a pretty major trip somewhere to take the EFG to university in September!  It may be as local as Lincoln, which we could do in a day, but it might be Aberdeen or Aberystwyth, Keele or Reading.  The first two I am sure are going to involve an overnight stay, and Aberdeen would probably need several nights, as well as a tank or two of diesel....this is going to cost me!

She has also been invited on "visit days", and would really like to attend the one in Aberdeen in March.  At first estimate, this is going to cost about £500 for the train fare and one night in a hotel for the two of us! Since this might very well be the place she decides to spend the next three or more years, I do think she deserves the chance to have a look around, however briefly!

So I reckon I need to aim for about £1000 in that account, one way or another.  It might not entirely cover the cost of a long trip, but it would provide a buffer in that month.  This is in addition to the already planned savings, and will have to be siphoned off from other things as and when that is possible.  Once I find out what her firm and insurance acceptances are going to be, I might be able to modify it, but whilst Aberdeen remains a possibility, I think I had better aim high!