Friday, 10 January 2014

No Spend Days and a Surprise Windfall

First of all a big warm welcome to Bridget a fellow knitter, and fellow SAHM mum of 5. Thank you for the sock pattern details; I've just ordered my own copy. I'm so excited to find a great pattern for socks worked in double knit yarn on 2 straight needles; knitting in the round has always eluded me despite various attempts at mastering it. I can't wait to get started, so, expect piccies of handknitted socks in a couple of weeks time.  I think that every family member can expect a pair for Christmas 2014.

I've started back with writing all my spending down every day to keep track of my budget. I'm allowing £50 a week (my week starts on Sunday) plus DH's £20 bus fare and the occasional petrol top up for the car. We live close to the bus stop and it's actually  cheaper for DH to get a weekly £20 ticket than for him to take the car and pay the Park and Ride each day. I've managed 2 No Spend Days this week and so far have spent less than £19.80 since last Sunday, excluding DH's fares. Of that £19.80 £4 was spent on DH's jeans and I succumbed to a sewing book for £2.99 in The Works clearance sale.

The book was reduced from their previous price of £7.99 down to £2.99 but the recommended retail price is £19.99. I paid for it using some of the £4.95 I'd been expecting to pay out for my slimming class as it turned out I still had 2 weeks to go of the prepayment scheme I'd taken out before Christmas, so I didn't need the cash this week. The book is just right for a novice sewer like me; it has clear pictures and instructions and easy to make projects using various techniques that I haven't yet mastered like buttonholes and zip insertion (although I can put in a basic zip I want to learn different ways so I can use them in my bags). The remaining £2 went into my sealed pot.

And the windfall in the title? I'm really excited. We are over £600 better off thanks to a tax rebate that DH wasn't expecting. It was a lovely surprise and after we take 10% out as a charity donation we will save it towards a holiday to celebrate out 30th wedding anniversary later this year.  We give every month by drect debit to about 5 different charities but as this was such a lovely amount we hadn't expected to get we decided we'd like to pass on some of our good fortune. Actually, I think I'll spend £30 of it and buy a load of groceries to donate to the Food Bank. Its a pity they won't accept out of date goods or they could have some of my stockpile, but by buying value items I can get a lot with £30.

More good news is that DH has a full time contract until the end of February through an agency at the college where he's been working  As he's interviewed to go on the college's own supply lecturer list, and the head of the department he's working in wants to keep him, he's hoping he can stay there for the rest of the year. That would be lovely as it would mean we could overpay the mortgage each month and put money by to cover the holiday periods when DH doesn't get paid. There is also a permanent position coming available that DH is going to apply for. He hasn't held a permanent job since his breakdown 4 years ago. He had a full year off sick and was made redundant while on sick pay, and ever since then he's done supply teaching. He's worked in some horrible schools and loves being at the college teaching to a higher level and not getting sworn or spat at on a daily basis.

This morning was spent looking at a flat in Folkestone with DD3 and her boyfriend. They're definitely intending to move out this year and this is the second place they've viewed; they weren't that impressed by the first but this one was nice with big rooms, plenty of light from large bay windows, and a fully fitted kitchen with built in cooker, fridge and freezer which would save them some money as they'll be setting up home from scratch. They're both in full time jobs, have money saved and no kids or pets and are non-smokers, so pretty much ideal tenants. But we'll have to wait and see since the agents had several others viewing the property too. They should be told the decision next week. I shall miss them and their contribution to the household but its really time they had their own place. They've been together since DD was 15 and her boyfriend has lived with us for 6 years now.

I've been busy on my no spend days using up my stockpile and adding to the freezer. On Wednesday I spent most of the afternoon cooking. I had 2 x 2lb sachets of cooked chicken I got ages ago from Approved Foods that really needed using, so I made 2 huge chicken pies using one sachet, 2 tins of condensed celery soup, a little white wine, wholegrain mustard and black pepper and covered them with pastry that I had in the freezer made from an AF mix.

With the pastry trimmings I lined a cake tin, spread the pastry with jam and whipped up an almond flavoured sponge to make a version of bakewell tart. I baked all three items in the oven at the same time.

With the other sachet I made a big chicken stew in the slow cooker adding 2 jars of Roast Chicken casserole mix and a tin of carrots also from AF.

In addition I used my other slow cooker to make a Hairy Bikers' sausage casserole. I used a pack of 12 thin sausages from the freezer that I'd bought reduced in Morrisons before Xmas, and half a pack of value bacon bits (also from the freezer). I added 2 tins of tomatoes (bought when on offer at 4 for £1 in Morrisons), garlic, onions and red kidney beans plus flavourings.

I already had all the ingredients in the house. I didn't buy a single thing extra to make any of these meals and have started to make inroads into my stockpile.

We had the sausage casserole on Wednesday night served with pasta (also from my stockpile); yesterday we had the second turkey loaf I'd made on Sunday served with oven chips and baked beans; and tonight I reheated the chicken stew in the slowcooker adding some pearl barley, half a smoked sausage I had in the fridge, a few chilli flakes and some smoked paprika. 

I think tomorrow will be something simple like bacon roly poly, baked beans and mash. But I might change my mind about that. I'm not exactly sticking to menu plan at the moment, simply trying to make meals using what I have in stock and buying as few extra ingredients as possible.

DH is taking me out somewhere in the car tomorrow since the weather promises to be fine. Not sure where we're going yet, but its been a while since we went to Hythe so perhaps we'll go there and either have a wander along the seafront or by the canal if DH's knee isn't too painful. He had an x ray on it before Xmas and the result still wasn't with our doctor when I phoned up today so DD2, who works in the patient experience department at a local hospital, chased it up for us and it should be there on Monday or Tuesday. If anyone has issues over their hospital or GP treatment then please call patient experience and ask them to check it out for you; if it isn't used the service will close down.

Okay, I think I've wittered on for long enough, but I had a few days to catch up on. Thank you for putting up with me.


  1. Glad you got the pattern, I did think afterwards if you'd have emailed me your address I could have photocopied it and posted it to you. I will have to remember that for the future! Hope you have a lovely day tomorrow wherever you go x

  2. Thank you for the offer but I ordered a copy of it last night. I see the £3 spent as an investment in this year's Xmas preparations as I'm sure I'll be making a few pairs of socks as pressies for people and that will ultimately save me money. I don't think we're having a day out after all as I had a bit of a jippy tummy last night and still feel a bit delicate this morning. We'll probably just take a walk into town and go have coffee in Weatherspoons.

  3. I have enjoyed reading about your days. I have no energy at present and your efforts are motivating.

  4. I loved the look of your pies. I wish the weather here allowed for these…however there are other things to eat.

    I am so pleased for your little windfall. That is excellent.

    1. Thank you, Suze. The pies are in the freezer but we might have one this week. Our windfall was very welcome. It will go a long way towards a little holiday to celebrate our anniversary and means that's one less thing I have to save up for.

  5. The hand knitted socks I had for Christmas are amazing and one of my best presents. From my lovely Mum.

    That looks like a great book and a brilliant price too. Glad that £2 went into the pot.

    So pleased about your windfall. So lovely you are giving some to charity and of course spoiling yourselves. You really deserve it.

    And I am DELIGHTED to hear the news about hour hubby's job. Oh that is just wonderful and I really hope he gets that permanent position.

    Glad you're having non-spend days and cooking up delicious food.

    Thanks for the info about Patient Experience too.

    Sft x

    1. My sock pattern came today and I've already made a start on one pair using some space-dyed wool I've had for ages. I'll post pictures later in the week. If they turn out okay I'll be looking out for bargain wool throughout the year to make pairs for family members. The scarves I made this year were a great success. Yes, the windfall was really unexpected, a lovely surprise and will mean I have to put less by each month towards our 30th anniversary holiday. Happy to pass on the info about Patient Experience. The department where my daughter works is under threat and they've all had to reapply for their jobs even though they've improved their clear-up statistics immensely over the past year. If more people use their services they'll make themselves more indispensible; a case of use it or lose it.