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Thursday, 19 April 2018

Down to the Wire

Aren't HMRC wonderful......answers on a post card please! I received my Civil Service P60 yesterday and duly completed my online tax assessment. I've had all the figures concerning the rental property to hand for a while now.  A note inside the P60 said  HMRC are not going to tax me on my pension anymore......result.  At last they appreciate I'm on a much lower income and the upshot of the Self Assessment was that I'm due a tax rebate which I thought I was but not anything like the amount quoted. But it so typical of HMRC to give with one hand and take with another, I have a feeling in my water they will start asking for an advance tax payment on the rental property as was the norm when I was working.  Call me cynical but it wouldn't surprise me one bit, so there will be no jollies when the refund hits my bank account, it will just be transferred to a miserly rated interest account ready to pay the tax demand later this year! Enough said. 

Well the extra £5 taking the budget to £105 came in handy to replenish some much needed odds and sods in the pantry.  The monthly total was £107.11 adjusted from by the £1.35 refund from Laughing Cow £105.76. So I'm 76p over budget but I'll attempt to claw some if not all of that back next month. 

I went to Lidl (£8.54)and Morrison's (£1.15) on the 16th and the spending was down to the wire. I spent more than I wanted on a curly rooted lettuce at £1 but my thought process was I'll put it in the ground when I finished and see if it regenerates as they sometimes do.  Plus they'd completely sold out of all other lettuces and so had Morrison's......must be something to do with that orange thing in the sky and waistlines I suspect! Just three things purchased in Morrison's 2 chunky carrots because they are easier in my spiraliser and some Clover Light.  I use this sparingly as we are trying to cut down on 'unnatural' products. But I need a low fat spread for some of the Weight Watchers recipes like the cake below which is made from chickpeas, although you'd never know and not a drop of flour in sight.

You are supposed to add white chocolate drops but I used a cheap 3 15g grated from a cheap 30p bar with 20g melted on top together with 15g of dark chocolate again a 30p bar. Its low in smart points compared to normal cakes and tastes just as good. 

I've been enjoying the sunshine and getting my steps in too, clocking up 14695 yesterday. Its amazing what you see when you are out and about.....for example outside the local cemetery:
BAD PARKING? GETAWAY CAR? STOLEN CAR or just an INCONSIDERATE NUMPTY? Who know's I'll see if its still there when I go out shortly.  The refuse collectors wont be happy but I'll hazard a guess that any Fire Engine would simply barge it out of the way. 
Well that's all for now, hope you're enjoying this glorious weather. Back soon. TX

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Pension Increase Yeah!

Hubby received his pension statement and P60 from the Civil Service, his always arrives before  mine which is  annoying but it does say there will be a 3% pay increase to the pension starting this month.  So for me that's an extra £23 a month not bad and I've just had a letter from my other pension provider Legal & General saying they will not be taxing my pension this year as HMRC have been in touch.  So that's another £12.33  a month but I dare say they'll still tax my Civil Service pension because of the rental property income. Once I receive my P60 from the Civil Service I can complete my tax return and then I will have some idea what they will be taking now I no longer work.

My eldest daughter is an  area manager for a large  medical company,  so travelling is always on the agenda.  Hubby and I try to help out as much as possible since her husband left. I usually cook a meal to take with me as its easier. So my cook up session was governed by using bits from the fridge.  There was a tub of low fat cream herb cheese that hubby had taken one scoop out of and left. (Don't you just hate that!)

So I made  a  Dauphinoise vegetable mix. (carrots, swede and potato in a cheesy sauce, which will be served with either a grilled piece of fish or chicken. I also used the cheese for a pasta dish adding bacon, onions, garlic, two wrinkled mushrooms and pepper . It was topped  with a light covering of grated cheese. The whole family love corned beef hash so a that was next on the agenda ready to take to my daughters.  The grandsons love it with baked beans or corn.  The very last of the cream cheese was placed in my nutri bullet with 2 eggs a small piece of onion, a chunk of pepper, 15g porridge oats and seasoning.  This made a lovely baked crust-less quiche for later in the week. The pasta was wolfed down before I had  a chance to take a photo of it. 

 My pension will be paid early as the 22nd falls on a Sunday. Having the grandchildren so much over Easter  certainly used up things that would normally last much longer.  I've gone through cereal, bread, milk, sugar and eggs like water! I have £8.59 left in the £105.00 budget plus £1.35 from my Paypal account for the Laughing Cow refund, making £9.94. This last bit of money will have to go a long way and I'll show you exactly what I bought next time. Iceland frozen foods have sent me details of my latest bonus, spend £10 x 3 between 16th April-11th May to receive £5 on my bonus card. I have already compiled 3 rough lists because this month will all be about replacing store cupboard items and using up more of the meat, fish and vegetables from the freezer. Bye for now. Tx 

Monday, 16 April 2018

Should it do this?

I followed the your instructions and have left the Amaryllis to die back. It broke my heart seeing those beautiful flowers die.  The petals have fallen off and I'm continuing to water it until it dies back completely.  Then I can store the bulb somewhere that I can remember I've put it! Then last Monday it started to grow a little shoot at the bottom  and today its like this.  Should it do this?  No one mentioned it should.....what do I do? 

Although blogging has been infrequent due to being extremely busy I've remembered to take photographs of everything I've been up too. I/we  had the grandchildren last week, all 4 at one point.  They were well behaved after I read the riot act  over the use of IPad's and Mobiles.  The boredom threshold seems very low in the modern generation.  We got them helping in the garden and eventually the potatoes and onions got planted. The greenhouse and shed tidied and the grass cut. I'd also started off some beet root in damp paper which proves a very successful way of doing it for me.
Then  yesterday I transplanted the seedlings into compost and today there was already signs of leaves forming.

The decking was scrubbed and oiled and some of the self seeded pansies were added to baskets and tubs. I also picked up a tray of beautiful primulas for £2.40 to add to the much needed  splash of colour of colour around the garden.

The rest of the garden was tidied and the netting that was shredded by the he winter gales removed from the frame. I'm getting a new one from eBay as the local shops don't sell one big enough.

Wednesday saw me give my usual pint of blood, stocks are extremely low at the moment because lots of sessions were cancelled due to the awful weather we had in the UK.  Hubby joined me so that he could ask them about insulin dependant diabetics donating as its not normally allowed.  He has a rare blood group and would be a very  important donor.   They said they couldn't make that decision there but gave him a number to ring and discuss the possibility with their blood unit doctor.

Well we enjoyed the slightly warmer temperatures and the sunshine that eventually decided to show its face on Saturday.  I await with baited breath the 'heat wave' due sometime this week! Its another busy week as I'm looking after the grandchildren in Colchester overnight as their mummy has a very early start tomorrow. So today has been a manic day catching up on things, more on that soon.  Bye for now, Tx 

Monday, 9 April 2018

Seed Sowing Update

I started growing fruit and vegetables in earnest 3 years ago.  I've learnt so much along the way but more importantly it supplements our food budget with beautifully fresh organic produce. I don't buy expensive seeds but I do collect seeds  from the produce I have at the end of the season.   I planted up lots of different seeds roughly 19 days ago, they've been living in the conservatory  and I'm pleased to report that I've been successful with every single type of seed I started.  

The runner beans are going crazy so they will have to go outside in the cooler greenhouse to slow them down a little, the same with the French beans.  I will start a second sowing of both types of beans as we absolutely love them and they store well in the freezer.  Plus it gives us some lovely vegetables in the winter months.  

I have 3 courgette plants which will probably be enough, 4 butternut squash and  3 cucumber.  I have 9 kale which is far too many for my size garden and our needs  although Kale does store well in the freezer. But we'll see how many flourish when they are transplanted. The same applies for the 7 cabbage that have struck. I'm always loathed to get rid of seedlings and look for people to give them too. 
The tiny seeds are pinky/purple Alyssum. I have dwarf
marigold too to attract the bees into the garden. 
The beetroot seeds have been started off on damp tissue in the cupboard and the carrots will follow shortly. The tomatoes are starting their second leaves and they'll come in the lounge of an evening to keep the temperature a little more constant. 
Left tomatoes, right dwarf marigold. 

The spinach is a little stringy but that will go outside on Wednesday when we hope to have a few hours in the garden in the morning.  Hubby is going to mend the glass the grandchildren broke last week when a football landing on the roof! The potatoes and onions will be planted once I've drawn my plan for this year. And the netting needs mending on some of the insect screens. 
I dried some more pepper seeds out from a supermarket bought pepper and planted them up as only 3 seedling were sprouting and the additional seeds are starting to take.  There is about 10 seedlings now and more starting to pip through the soil.  I always have between 10-16 plants in the greenhouse as we use peppers a great deal in cooking and salads. Again they store well in the freezer and can be left on the plant until they are needed. 

The lettuce I put in the corner of the greenhouse is coming along nicely, they will be thinned out and given a feed, hopefully I will be picking one in 6-8  weeks time. A successional sowing will take place next week.  What are  you growing this year? 

Other jobs on the agenda, clean the greenhouse glass and greenhouse in general,  transfer the homemade compost to the pots and planters ready for the seedlings. Checkout the local Comfrey and Nettles ready to produce homemade, natural fertilizer. Hubby has brought home an huge oil drum and I debating whether to use it for potatoes, butternut squash  or the French beans.  The drum needs cutting in half and washing out first, so we could really do with a  couple of sunny days.  Does anyone know where the sun has gone because its really starting to annoy me now,  we have sun one day and rain or grey skies for 5 days!!! Please come back sun all is forgiven.  I have the grandchildren again this week so posting will take a bit of a back seat. Bye for now, Tx 

Friday, 6 April 2018

Latest Free Stuff

There are lots of freebie sites out there and I have signed up to a couple. They send emails almost everyday that I open and have a quick scout through.  There is lots of stuff I'm not interested in but like anything in life you have to sort the wheat from the chaff. One offer was to get Laughing Cow cheese spread free. All you had to do was purchase it, then upload your receipt and bingo a refund appeared in Paypal within 24 hours.  I will use this £1.35 towards a pack of 24 Lidl Triangle cheeses.  Cheeky I know!

Love it or Hate it? What do you think of Marmite......I'm a lover. I signed up for a free sample and received two little heart shaped pots plus a 50p off coupon too. Of course I'll look on the Mysupermarket website to find the cheapest place to buy it and/or combine it with a supermarket money off coupon, after all the coupon  is valid until 30.06.2018.                   I'm always on the  look out for Money Off coupons but you have to be quick of the mark to get them. I don't give my details unless there is a printable coupon on the website page.  99% of the time I will only give one of my email addresses because I can easily hit the unsubscribe button after. I know Marlene at Simply Living is the Queen of free and  yellow stickers so I'm looking forward to hearing about more ways to save money from her over the next few months.  Every little helps. 

We've had the family over quite a few times for meals during the last week and we have all the grandchildren for 4 days. I think im going to have to add £5 to my £100 budget this month because I bought some special treats for them and other bits we don't normally eat.  Off to the market shortly once the grandchildren have sorted themselves.  I do hope they have some cheap bananas like a couple of weeks ago, they were excellent value and I'm down to the last 2.  Enjoy the weekend, I do hope that orange ball in the sky decides to stick around now, it's been sorely missed. Back soon with a garden update. Bye for now. Tx 

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Cheap Vegetables

Morning, I hope you all had a lovely was grey, damp and cold here. But the sun is out today and the seedlings are all springing into life.

As many of you know the recent Easter Holiday brought about a bit of a Vegetable Price War between supermarkets in the UK. Aldi, Asda and Morrison's were the main 3 involved. I managed to visit all 3 at different points over the weekend. Although I don't have an Aldi on my doorstep delivering  Easter Eggs to the grandchildren in Ipswich Monday proved an ideal opportunity to visit Aldi.  Their reduced range was quite extensive so I bought:
Swede 19p, White Cabbage 19p, Red Cabbage 19p, Leeks 19p, Carrots 19p, 2.5kg Maris Piper Pots 29p, Parsnips 19p and  Onions 19p. I also bought mixed peppers (3) 92p and salad tomatoes (6) 62p. In Asda I bought Spring greens 20p and carrots 20p. And finally Broccoli and 2 x 2.5kg bags of white potatoes from Morrison's for £1.

Lots of vegetables there to keep us going for a fair while as long as they are stored correctly.  I decided I would freeze some of them ready for use throughout the month. So I made 3 650g stew/soup bags containing, swede, carrots, celery and leeks. I did 1 bag of chopped leeks ready for a soup. I bag of chopped parsnip ready for curried parsnip soup, 1 small bag of chopped peppers, 1 small bag of finely cubed carrot and swede to add to meat etc. And while I was busy wielding the knife I also shredded a bowl of salad for lunch.                                          
Some of the carrots
and parsnips were left chunky ready for roasts. They were blanched and open frozen before being bagged up. I moved onto shredding the spring greens, giving it a good wash and spinning it as dry as possible in the salad spinner before bagging & freezing it. 

The potatoes were removed from the plastic bags and put in an old brown pillow slip and put in the outside cupboard were it is very cool.  Once I have more room in the freezer, I may par boil some an turn them into savoury wedges to freeze. The red and white cabbage have a plastic shrink wrap on them and I left this in place, they'll be kept in the cool outside. I had lots of little bits left over so I made a pan of spicy vegetable soup.  I prepared a fresh fruit salad and berry blend to serve with Greek yoghurt. We had a lovely roast beef dinner minus Yorkshire puddings as there was so many vegetables on our plates. I also made a cottage pie while the oven was on. 
Then came the  Chocolate Black Bean cake which is a weight watchers recipe and made in a food processor. Using my Nutribullet made it  simple,  bung it in and switch on process. It was absolutely yummy, better still it was low fat and not a bit of white flour in sight. I want to try lemon Chickpea cake next and I will do a post about this new way of baking soon. There is still lots of fresh vegetables left in the cool outside workshop for me to serve up over the next 10 or so days before I need to dig into the freezer. It was definitely a productive few hours but so worth it as it will save me so much time and money over the next few weeks. 

Next week I have to go through the cupboards and write a store cupboard shopping list. I'm keeping my meat purchases to an absolute  minimum next month while I restock all the other things like coffee, tea, kitchen roll, spices and seasonings etc. Back soon. Tx

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Last Months Budget

Thank you again fir all your support. Heres last months budget, a week late  but allagood.  The budget (22/2/18-21/3/18) came in at £103.54 but after I deducted the £4 I spent on Easter eggs for the grandchildren it came to £99.54.  I felt the eggs shouldn't be included in our food budget as they are technically a present. So once again I managed to come in on budget.  I do think its going to get harder as I go through the year, trying  to stick to £100 but I'm hoping by the time my meat and fish stocks become depleted I will be harvesting food from the garden to supplement the budget.  

I buy a bag of  ready cooked chicken every other  month for hubby (1kg chicken breast).  He trains still 3 times a week (cycling, running and circuits) and has a high protein snack after  which he pays for.  I agree to pay for 2 (3litre) bottles of coke a month but when its gone its gone. Its not me being mean its  because he has been told by the dentist its bad for his teeth and should be giving it up! 

The gas and electric came in slightly lower than the month before at £82.74. I managed to re-negotiate the home contents and building insurance with Admiral down from £185.26 to £162.45 exactly £1 more than last year for the same platinum policy.  I will look to insure my car through them later this year if they are competitive as it will apparently save me money have a 'multiple' policy. Do you have one?  I still have to tackle the phone line and broadband with BT but I'm locked into a scheme for another 6 weeks, so its on my 'to do' list. The Post Office have had some great offers in this area but has terrible reviews so I'll keep researching so I can tell BT what I want from the negotiations.  Its no good having a cheaper product if it doesn't do what it says on the tin.  Sky put our TV package up by £1 last month and I would normally ring and complain but I'm holding off because again I may be able to get a deal for my phone line and broadband through them. 

More coupons have arrived form Tesco's but the only one I will be able to spend is the one dated 16/04/18-22/04/18 because my new budget starts on the 22nd. £3 off £30 it may or may not be worth it as I find Tesco expensive. Plus I don't have one local to me so I have to think petrol or combine it with a visit to either of my daughters. 
But I'll look through the offers  a few days beforehand to see if its worth using. 

It will soon be the end of the financial year and time for me to do my 'self assessment' tax return.  I'm hoping I'm due a tax rebate as this is the first year I have been fully retired living on my much reduced income. They have continued to tax my private pensions despite me telling them I don't work anymore but they won't sort it until I complete my self assessment. CRAZY!
I feel like building an Ark and sailing off somewhere as we've had so much rain and it looks pretty much the picture for the next 10 days. I was going to put my potatoes in the ground this weekend but I'm worried about it being so wet. What do you think? We are normally far drier on the coast so I'm not used to these conditions.  Should I go ahead? All advice gratefully received. Enjoy your Easter Eggs. Bye for now. Tx