drEAming, fEAsible, general chit chat, taking stock, trEAsury

expanding time, expanding work…

Even though I have four days off work now I seem to struggle to get everything done in the house that I would normally have done in the 3 days I had before.

This suggests to me that Parkinson’s Law “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” has some truth in it!

It may be down to the fact that having more time has allowed me to do each task in some depth – whether it is the mountain of paperwork or the dusting each job now is being done very thoroughly and at last I can see the paperwork pile reducing to the point where I will be working on the ‘stuff’ that I receive during the week – rather than working on last week’s, or last months or longer.

I have been doing more than my set 2 hours recently on the financial tasks and what I term ‘paperwork’ as we have got a few important items to attend to which require careful reading and even more careful decisions – ones that will affect us financially long-term – I don’t know about you but I find these quite difficult.  If I say the word Pensions you will probably know what I mean.

Gradually I have cleared out a lot of old papers from the files and I have reached the point where I am completely up to date with the filing and can now do it as I go along.  I have also spent quite a few hours entering receipts and logging our spending on our Money Program on the computer.  Every account is now fully balanced and the advantage of this program is that I can run reports that will tell me how much I am spending each week in any given category – it would even tell me in which shops I spend the most money – the possibilities are endless!

When I have gathered all the information I can begin to look at making any reductions and adjustments. I am expecting a few shocks when I see the totals so far for the year.  Spending the odd fiver a week on something can add up to quite a lot over the year.  Items like magazines are typical of this kind of spending (even though I believe I have been very good recently and picked them up and then put them back on the shelf again one or two have accidentally fallen into my trolley!).  And then there are birthday cards and gifts this is always a category where the figures creep up but I have managed to buy some nice gifts at very reasonable bargain prices.

I know our food spending is working out at about £50 a week – we eat well usually in the sense that we buy as much organic food as we can and a lot of fruit and vegetables and make a good many of our meals from scratch (though this does not necessarily mean we always make healthy meals!).  When pushed for time we will often compromise and buy the main bit of the meal ready-made like Nut Cutlets and add a plateful of vegetables.

With more attention to our menu planning I know I could reduce this by another £10 easily.  I have noticed that the price for having a drink or lunch out is creeping up and although it is a nice treat now and again it does add up to quite an amount over the year.

I have some additional points vouchers for Sainsbury’s for items that I would usually buy which is good and I was handed another 5 x points voucher this evening to put towards my full shop next week.  So my total rewards value now stands at £101.44 which I am saving towards Christmas or one of their double up events if they run it again this year in November.

Stay tuned for my next update. x

cleaning, decluttering, decorating, drEAming, general chit chat, homestEAding, nEAtening, rEArranging, simplifying

weekly review – more cleaning and clearing

A normal week this week so I finished work on Wednesday night and then did a bit of a shop in Sainsbury’s taking advantage of any items on offer – so now one of those huge 1kg tubs of Lurpack butter sits in my fridge as it was the only one available on offer and I never buy butter at full price.

Last time this happened we got the butter dish out of the cupboard and kept decanting slabs of butter into it.  It is actually quite nice to have a proper butter dish on the table and the saving on buying the very large size is really good at 60p for 100 grams against 75p per 100 grams for the smaller size – I might buy this size again even though it almost fills a shelf by itself!

When I came to put the food away I was too tired to do any more than just pushing it in where it would fit with the intention of sorting it out later so my first job on Thursday morning was cleaning and sorting the two fridges.

We have a small under the counter one in the kitchen now 30 years old and showing its age but still going strong and a larger one in the laundry room where we keep our vegetables, salad and fruit.  We invested in this a few years ago because our veg goes off quickly in either the kitchen or the garage.  I still store potatoes and onions in the garage though.

Whilst sorting and cleaning I decided to wash and chop some of the veg and put it into bags so that it will be ready when we want to make a meal.

I don’t usually do this but the idea came to me because we already pre-prepare a large bowl of mixed fresh fruit for our breakfast and salad for our lunch or my packed lunches.

 

So I prepared Leeks, Celery and Spring onions as I find these most time-consuming.

I keep the prepared salad in these ‘handy’ containers  – I nickname it our ‘Salad Bar’  – the deep one with 3 sections is great to take any combination of radish, cucumber, tomatoes, grated carrot, peppers etc but I would never put the chopped spring onions or beetroot in here as they would end up making the container smell or stain.  The larger square container has a plastic rack that sits on the bottom to keep the lettuce crisp and fresh and it does seem to work.

…and voila all sorted!  If this works I might try to pre prepare a lot more of our veg now I have a bit more time at home.

 

Whilst in the kitchen I moved on to cleaning the herb and spice rack.  My collection of four little chickens had become a trifle dusty and some of the herbs past their best by a few years.  I tend to use fresh herbs that have been frozen more than the dried ones so they end up well out of date before I get to the end and eventually smell and taste of very little.

 

I will need to replenish some of them and also buy some of the spices I will need for bonfire night and Christmas (I did whisper that word!).

There is something special about the taste and smell of the spices that mark this season – warming ginger for the Parkin and Ginger cake, mixed spice and cinnamon for the Christmas cake and cloves that will be used for my pomanders.

I always buy organic when I can but find that the Whole food shops sell it in bags that are far too big a quantity for us so I get the smaller packets from Waitrose.  As luck would have it a coupon has just dropped through my door for £10 off a £50 spend!  I shall make a list and maybe go on Saturday when we are out and about.

 

In between all this cleaning and clearing I managed to get our double mattress protector washed and hung on the line for a good blow before the next rain shower.

Whilst I was out in the garden I realised how much is still in flower even though summer is well and truly over.  I took a couple of pictures to capture the last of the colour – the vibrant red of the Kaffir lilies against the deep blue of the geraniums…

 

…and I just love the mustard yellow seed heads bobbing around with the finely cut Monbretia petals which are a softer orange than most and contrast well against the mauve of the hydrangea.

For anyone reading my last post about clippings these are my binders full of ideas – I even have one called Clippings – this is just a place to put any interesting newspaper and magazine articles about the area our cottage is in.  When we had the flood we hit the local newspapers!  One day soon I will go through them and try to reduce the amount.

 

 

If you have been following my recent decorating posts you will know we have just finished one bedroom and are about to start on the middle bedroom which belonged to my elder daughter and now used by my mum when she comes to stay.  So I thought I would show you the before pictures.  As you will see it is well overdue a complete overhaul.

The pictures are cheap ones bought when we ‘styled’ my mum in laws house to sell.  Rather than just take them straight to charity I put them up in here but they won’t be going back as they are not really my taste.  I might keep the silver frames and put new pictures in.

 

I am clearing the room bit by bit as the wardrobes are being dismantled to make way for new ones that will hopefully  be more space effective and only have two doors rather than three as at the moment there is always a bit you cannot get to easily creating pockets of wasted space.  Eventually this wardrobe will give mum some hanging space when she visits and hold our out of season clothes as we will be losing six drawers.

The two sets of Ikea drawers will be going up to my daughters new house with the single bed and mum will be getting a bigger double bed and this can then be used when either daughter and partners stay over too.

The retro nursing chair was my mum-in-laws – it was meant for the cottage so I am having to store it here now until the cottage is ready.  I am still undecided about keeping it, it needs recovering and estimates have been about £200.  Once we have the new bed the chair will not fit back in here so I need to make a decision soon.

Tomorrow we will be resuming our hunt for reasonably priced sliding doors – I am really out of touch with prices for furniture but the estimates we have been given seem far too high for a spare bedroom.  The ones we are removing were less than £90 from MFI in early nineties!  They have to be sliding doors as there isn’t enough room for opening doors in this room.

Well that is my update hope your weekend goes well.

being thrifty, fEAsting, food shopping, getting things done, hEAlth, healthy eating, managEAble, meal planning, trEAsury

a relatively good start…

With menu in hand I completed my Sainsbury’s shop last night after work and felt quite pleased with myself, especially as I limited myself to a hot chocolate without a little snack (I would usually have a scone to keep me going).  Even though I was aiming to buy seasonal British grown produce I noticed the  cabbage was actually grown in Spain!  My trolley was mainly vegetables with a couple of loaves of bread and a few groceries – the ones we were running out of and one or two on offer.  My total bill came to £32.21 for the week – so I am quite pleased with that especially as we are eating better than when I spend a lot more!

shopping

This was all the fresh veg that I needed to add to the bits and pieces in the fridge to make my selected weeks menus.  The cheapest item was the Kiwi fruit at 30p and the dearest the dozen mixed sizes free range organic eggs at £3.70.  I need five for the Spiced Chickpea bakes and the remainder will carry over for next week.  The herbs were on offer and I will be able to freeze what I don’t use.  In the end I decided to buy a ready pack of Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato for £1.

Fresh Veg

Last night we had the Mushroom Stroganoff unfortunately when hubby made it he forgot he was making Stroganoff not risotto and mixed the rice into the mushroom mixture – but in the end it tasted the same!  Tonight we had the veggie stew with roasted chickpeas and butter beans a good warming winter dish – we both enjoyed the new recipe but perhaps the sweet potato and butternut squash made it a little too sweet for me so I would need to make slight adjustments next time.  The other draw back is it does not make enough for 2 meals – the leftover portion will however do for my lunch.  I will have to think of something to fill the empty slot for our tea tomorrow or move everything forward a meal.

Whilst in Sainsbury’s last night I had some returns – I had bought a snuggly throw for the bed at the caravan to keep us warm overnight.  It was a knitted cream blanket with an acrylic sheepskin style underside.  I never thought to check the washing instructions when I purchased it and was rather shocked to find it was not washable.  When I found the receipt to take it back I noticed I had been charged twice for this item.   As it was part of my weekly shop at the time I had not thought too much about my bill seeming a bit dearer than normal and had not checked the receipt afterwards.

So when I asked for a refund of the throw I had bought  I mentioned to the lady at Customer Services about being charged twice and confirmed that I had only bought one – after a bit of a quiet moment and a few umm’s and argh’s she agreed to refund me the money for both.  I thought this was very good of them as I had no way to prove I had not bought two at the time.  So well done Sainsburys for the goodwill gesture – but I will be checking my receipts more throughly in future.

We are certainly getting back into a routine again, all though we are well into January now, and a few of those stubborn little tasks are being crossed off the list.  I booked the car in for the MOT and service on Friday  and made a dentist appointment for the same morning. 

 I am not sure if the car or my teeth will require any major repairs – I hope not as I need to make economies in all areas of my spending.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

fEAsible, financial focusing, my goals, trEAsure, trEAsury

Financial Focusing update #8

White Roses

Yesterday and today I have been turning my financial focus to the electricity usage.

We are with Scottish Power  –  Online Fixed price energy deal which ends 31st August 2014.

Last year we spent £600.96 which is approx £50 month.  We cook electric and our shower is electric – the two main culprits that make our bills dear.

I like a long hot shower every morning and although I try to be economical with the oven because there is only the two of us it is sadly sometimes only cooking 2 baked potatoes and a rice pudding.  It is a large free-standing oven too (my sisters old one) so the capacity is larger than the new double ovens so more wasted heat.   The smaller oven is not well insulated so really doesn’t gain much by heating this.  The answer might be to cook a lot at a time in the oven on a weekend and do hob only meals during the week.

As I keep saying when we get our new kitchen and oven this will change –  in fact life will change completely for us and I am still holding on to that Siemens dream of coming home to a wonderful new streamlined easy to run and clean kitchen! You have heard it before here

Anyway back to the electricity usage.

What did I find out other than it is costing us far too much?

Our usage in Kwh is 4883 units from 15/02/13 to 16/01/14  (336 days) which = 14.53 units per day so for a full year 365 days it would be 365 x 14.53 = 5304.

Having this figure now allows me to go onto a comparison site to look at cheaper options.  I will get back to you on this.

…Meanwhile the gas saga goes on.

Yesterday I re-ran a comparison on the Moneysupermarket site and found that there is a company called ‘Daligas’  mmm…I had never heard of them either but they work out even cheaper than Npower.

Now if you begin to understand all these price breakdowns you will notice that their standing charge is £5.828 a month which is different to the price per day that most of the others charge. Npower for instance is £0.467 a day.

So over the year

  • Npower  = £170.46
  • Daligas = £69.94

with me so far?

Daligas charge £3.308 per kWh and Npower £3.25.  So on my 22ooo units average per year that equates to

  • Npower =  £715.00
  • Daligas =  £727.00

Daligas is dearer by £12 on the units but cheaper on the standing charge.

Total amount for year –

  • Npower =  £885.46
  • Daligas =  £796.94

– a difference of £88.52 for the year.

Now I am not sure if Moneysupermarket are including VAT here or not but given it would be the same percentage added to both it would not alter the comparison.

So all I need to do now is suss out Daligas who they are and what their service is like and is it worth switching to an unknown with all the hassle for £88.52.

It is quite a worthwhile sum to have don’t you think?

I am nothing but thorough and I have yet to research the companies who offer

  • No standing charge (but kWh usually a bit dearer)
  • Pre-payment
  • Duel fuel

Now for a catch up on the rest of the weeks spending…

I realise plain text can be a bit boring and my site has lacked a bit of colour all week so here comes a few photos – remember I said I would photograph everything that came into the house so that I can try and see where the problem lies with accumulating more stuff.

What did I buy this week that wasn’t groceries?

I have bought one or two bits and pieces but I won’t have to make room for all of the items as  some are presents, some edible and one a replacement new for old.

Pink iced cake

A pink iced cake for the party girl and the residents at the care home.  A box of candles though I am sure we can’t fit 90 of them on the cake and a pot of her favourite face cream.

Pillows

A pack of 2 pillows reduced at Sainsbury’s.  These are the ‘feels like down’ type which I have bought before and they do feel like down.  As we needed new pillows to replace some old ones this seemed like a bargain at £18 for the pair.

Pink Notebook

A small pink notebook to carry with me to jot down a few things that I think of like jobs to do, ideas for my blog, shopping I need etc.  This was reduced to £1.19

Scarf and Gloves

A grey patterned fleecy scarf and glove set £6 from Sainsburys another little birthday present for my mum in law.

I also treated myself to a £3 bunch of roses (picture at the top of the page)

Tomorrow we have a trip to Shrewsbury to celebrate my mum in-law’s 90th birthday.  Hope you have a good weekend too. x