Thursday 13 December 2018

The Sealed Pot - Our Yearly Challenge

Every year for what seems like forever ... but is in fact only seven after reading back through my old blog posts ... we have had a Sealed Pot on the go. 

 Our very first one was back in 2011 and blogged about over at Our New Life in the Country (HERE'S a post from my old blog describing it all in more detail).  Well last year our tin finally gave up the ghost so we decided to use my lovely old teapot as our permanent receptacle instead.

Of course after doing this for the last seven years we are well used to putting money in and not taking it out, so we were not going to stick up the lid ...  the money wouldn't fit down the spout (not even 5p's I tried) so we were going to have to lift off the lid to pop all our loose change in anyway!!

All through this year we put in all our small change and virtually all of the £2 coins that we received.  It soon brought the level of coins up.

And as is usual on 4th December, our wedding anniversary,  we did The Grand Opening of the Sealed Pot.

After what seemed like lots of time spent counting we were both very impressed.

And our Grand Total was £386.96.

Now usually this spawns a Challenge ... but for once I really don't know what to do.

My money scrimping brain is telling me a £1 a day for 365 days challenge again, with the odd £21.96 being used to buy a starter store cupboard ... but do I really want to commit to this.

I'm thinking, pondering and mulling it over.

I'll let you know  :-)

Wednesday 12 December 2018

Freebies, Vouchers and Coupons - Day Seven

Signing up for various freebie sites is a good way to get emails landing in your in-box on a regular basis giving you the chance to claim free samples, enter competitions or take part in surveys for rewards.  One site I'm signed up for is Magic Freebies.

Of course you have to exercise a good level of commonsense and be very careful to read the small print on anything you add your email address to.   The above is a Google Images picture of the website's Homepage, by using today's email to get to their page I entered for the chance to win a Higgedy Pie.  By signing up for that I could be one of the 100 lucky people to get a voucher for a 'free lunch' ... meaning one free pie.

And I also signed up for a John Lewis card which means I will qualify for free hot drinks and cakes at least three times a year ... or so the bumf says :-)

Another site I check out most days is the MoneySaving Expert UK coupons page HERE just to keep an eye out for any new money off or freebie coupons appearing.  It also highlights any new special offers that could save you some money.

Finding a few money saving or freebie sites and checking them regularly is okay if you don't mind getting regular and frequent emails and if you have the time, if this is not your thing then of course after a few days you could always unsubscribe from them ... or simply not sign up in the first place unless there is an offer you really want to claim and then unsubscribe immediately afterwards.

You do need to use some of the sites sensibly and to suit yourself and your way of life.

And finally to finish off this week of Freebies, Vouchers and Coupons my most favourite 'freebie' of them all ...

My little tin of sachets.

I pick these up whenever we are drinking or eating out and we have picked up more sachets or little packets of something than we use on our meals.  If you don't take what would be cleared off the table at the end of your meal they will only end up in the bin ... and that simply isn't right!!

I have however, after a  chance remark from the Barista a couple of weeks ago, recently started taking two sachets of brown sugar whenever I buy a cup of coffee.  

I ordered my usual filter coffee, when asked if I would like hot or cold milk I declined with a smile and a 'no thank you'  (as I drink all coffee black) and she said 'well you're a cheap date then aren't you' ...  in a nice way I hasten to add.  But it got me thinking ... I drink the coffee black so no little jug of milk is needed, I don't sweeten it, so no sugar or artificial sweeteners either and I rarely even take a spoon, as there's no need to stir it, so less washing up ... I really am a cheap date for any coffee shop!!

So now I take two sachets of brown sugar each time I have a coffee in a cafe or restaurant ... and pop them into my little tin of magic tricks when I get home.  I use brown sugar in baking so now I will slowly build up a little stash ready to top crumbles or cakes .

I got two more money saving coupons the other day whilst out shopping, these will live in my purse until their dates expire just in case I can make use of them.  One is a £5 off a £20 shop in Holland and Barrett and the other £5 off a £40 shop in Marks and Spencer.

You never know!!!

I also got two very timely bargains.

A half price Pug Christmas jumper from Bon Marche, they only had two sizes left 18s and 22s, so they had been popped onto the sale rail ... now I'm neither of those sizes but a nice big cosy jumper in time for Christmas is not to be sneezed at for half price, especially one with a Pug on.  So I paid just £12.50 for a £25 jumper that is lovely and snugly and as I got the size 18 not that big really!

I was really pleased with the book, very timely with Veganuary being just over the horizon and a husband that loves the occasional sweet bake.   I  picked it up from a popup YMCA shop that we have on the High Street in Llandudno for just £2.  Then literally a few minutes later there it was again in Waterstones on their books released this year table for the full price of £12.99.

A really good way to end my week of Freebies,Vouchers and Coupons 

... with a happy bargain  ;-)


Tuesday 11 December 2018

Freebies, Vouchers and Coupons - Day Six

Loyalty cards - something for nothing ... or just cards cluttering up your purse or wallet?

It's for you to decide really,  I seem to swing backwards and forwards with this one ... although at the moment I am firmly in the something for nothing camp.

I have all the cards pictured here and more!!

Whenever I buy books at Waterstones, and I do when they are on offer as they first come out as I like to support my local High Street, or visit Waterstones for a coffee I use my cards.   After a few coffee stamps on your card you qualify for a free drink.  

All purchases add up to money off books which you can now take whenever you want either in-store or online.  As you can see from these photos I have already pre-ordered the new BOSH! cookbook online, and using my plus balance got the cost of £20 book down to just £ 8.62.

A saving worth having.

 I mainly use the Booths card at my Smaller Life, as along with Aldi that's our local supermarket there.  If we're out long enough to need refreshments even with just me being a cardholder it means we both qualify for a half price cup of coffee in store ... always nice if we've just been walking the dogs up the canal and are feeling cold and damp.

My Boots card gets used very intermittently but I do like to try and take advantage of offers to get a reasonable amount of points on any visit.  And it means that I can usually at least earn enough for a large tub of my favourite body cream free each year.

We got our Costa coffee cards when we travelled up and down the road a lot for business on a regular basis, and as it's very rare that you can redeem points at motorway services it always meant that we quickly accrued enough for a free hot drinks each after doggy walks back at home.

Another coffee card that takes a while to fill up is my Debenhams one, BUT and yes it is a big BUT over time it does fill up and means a free cup of coffee at the very least once a year.

Another card I carry is the Pets at Home loyalty/charity card.  Well with two dogs and a cat I might as well I'm in there often enough.  This one means that a local charity benefits slightly from all my visits to the store and every quarter I benefit with some money off coupons and a free magazine.

I usually use at least one of the £5 off a £50 shop coupons every other month to bulk buy the dogs and Gingers foods and any treats that are on special offer.  And sometimes, like this month, there is a freebie to be had.

Also by registering their information, the dogs and Ginger get a coupon for a free item in time for their birthdays each year ... which I think is a lovely incentive to have a card.   Over the last few years it has been for a free pack of these for the dogs.  The first time I got this coupon I picked up our normal sized version ... for small breeds ... then I cottoned on to the fact that I could get a 'large breed' sized pack with my birthday freebie coupon, still with seven sticks inside, but then I could cut them all in half and have 14 small breed sized chews instead.  Double bargain  :-)

It's all something for nothing ... and worth having.

Well until my purse and key-ring start feeling too fat and I swing back the other way anyway  :-)


Monday 10 December 2018

Freebies, Vouchers and Coupons - Day Five

Something free from a charity shop!!

This year we have decided not to buy our usual year long Cineworld cinema passes, instead we are going to stay in at home more ... watching films on Dvd, especially on wet, cold and windy Winter nights.  

With this in mind I have been slowly adding to our already large Dvd collection whenever I see something that might be suitable.  Although I have to confess to a distinct shortage of 'action films'  in our current collection and many, many more girly films.  My excuse ... well I'm the one doing the buying at the moment and Alan does tend to fall asleep halfway through a film at home and I'm not going to end up sat watching some boring shoot-em type up film on my own!!

Anyway ...back to the freebies.

Our local to home charity shop sells Dvds 3 for 99p ... I found one Dvd that had  three films in the box so I got eight films for £1.98 =  two free films!!

And local to my Smaller Life there's one of the charity shops that sells the Dvds for £1 each but  when they have been on the shelf for two weeks, they move down to a box on the floor to make room for fresh stock.  Then they are given a red dot on the price label and are 3 for £1.  

And that's when I usually buy them.

And as you can see from this little pile I got another three films in one box.  
Five films for £1 = another two free films, or looking at it from their first pricing level ... I got five films for the price of one!!

It might only seem like a little saving, but it's when you take saving right down to the nitty gritty that it really does start to make a difference


Sunday 9 December 2018

Freebies, Vouchers and Coupons - Day Four

You never know where you are going to spot a good offer.  

Alan's Saturday morning paper gave me the chance to pick up this one a couple of weeks ago.  

When I spotted the voucher I quickly Googled how close we were to a Laura Ashley store and when it turned out there was one on the way to our planned day out, we detoured, had a little browse around the store and picked up my free shopping bag.  There was no pressure off the staff to buy anything, just a friendly bit of banter at the till and we were on our way.

These came through my door a couple of weeks ago, the vouchers we get for using our Marks and Spencer credit card.  We've had a few large purchases recently, all paid for on the card and then the amount owed being paid off in full using our savings at the end of each month.  It gives you something for nothing.

Instead of just dashing out and spending them, I saved them until I could think what we needed.  

Then yesterday Alan said he fancied salmon for Christmas rather than lots of meat ... he's winding down his consumption ready for joining in with Veganuary in the New Year.  So I bought two freezer packs of salmon fillets as they were on offer at £11 each instead of the usual £13.  So with my £19 of vouchers I only had to pay £3 ... bargain.

So it pays to always be on the lookout for freebies in unusual places, and to hang on to any money saving vouchers or coupons until you decide what you really want to buy with them and if you can, until the items you decide to buy are on an additional offer ... this way you get much more value for your coupons or vouchers.


Saturday 8 December 2018

Freebies,Vouchers and Coupons - Day Three

Sometimes while you can't get something for absolutely nothing it is worth keep your eyes open for random occurring offers, especially on things that you had previously looked at but dismissed for being too expensive.

As was the case with this Cheese Advent Calendar.

 I had spotted it last week in Booths for ten pounds, then while I was browsing in Asda last night I spotted it again, it was the last one left ... and priced to clear at £2.

It was a no brainer, it came home with me and after a little catch up with the dates Alan is now having a little disc of cheese with his suppertime cup of tea.

One day last week these Sainsbury's money off a £60 shop vouchers landed on my doormat.  Now I don't shop there very often as it is quite a drive away, so they keep desperately trying to tempt me back every time I go missing for a couple of months.

As I was in Mum's local Sainsbury's with her yesterday, picking up some things for her and a bag of our dogs favourite chews I used my Nectar card and had a read of my receipt.  It turns out I now have over £10 of points value.  So if I wait until the 16th and use one of the £12 off vouchers and add to that my £10 worth of Nectar points I can go to just over £60 and get a total of £22 off.  

Or ... if I do it as an online shop, as a first time customer I can claim an additional £18 off my first online order.  So that would be £40 off a shop of £60 or more.

Now that is very tempting indeed!!


Friday 7 December 2018

Freebies, Vouchers and Coupons - Day Two

Over at my Smaller Life I have Freeview television and recently I got hooked on watching some old episodes of Extreme Couponing ... the American show that follows people who get hundreds of dollars worth of shopping for a minimal payment or in some cases with clever planning, for absolutely nothing at all.  

It's really inspiring, and while I can't ever hope to replicate what they do, it did make me keep my eyes open for any coupons that I could find.

This little shop at Asda was totally free of charge.

And I still have 3p left on a £2 gift card they sent me ...

... when I pointed out how shortchanged I had been on their Smartprice Baked Beans.

I used that card on the Mince Pies and 'Christmas flavoured' crisps.

I got the Heinz voucher for a similar reason and used it to buy the Tomato Ketchup.  My Princes Tuna Fillers were also totally free, paid for with this coupon that I printed out from the internet off the MoneySaving website on the Supermarket Coupons UK page (that offer is now over unfortunately).

After my free food success in Asda I was on a roll, so I called into Tesco on my way home to use up my £8 worth of Tesco Clubcard vouchers.

And my £1 off a box of Magnums.

(This coupon is still available on the link I gave you above.)

I spent my Clubcard vouchers on a large bag of Basmati Rice,  and luckily the Magnums were back in stock so with my £1 off coupons I only had to pay £2.89 ... which turned out to be the total amount I paid for my shopping today.

And of course after being reminded by yesterdays post I will be completing the Asda survey, so that I'm entered into this months draw for £1,000. 

After all you have to be in in to win it!!


Thursday 6 December 2018

Freebies, Vouchers and Coupons - Day One

Not always something for free here ... but the chance of a nice little win in one of your favourite places to shop.  

In lots of shops these days they point out at the checkout that you can enter a free draw using your receipt to be in with a chance of winning some store vouchers.  Two hundred and fifty pounds to spend in Booths would be very nice thank you  ;-)

Usually all you have do to be in with this chance is to answer a small survey based around your most recent shop, using some of the information that you will find on your receipt. 

In some stores they are usually pointing out your chance to win as they write their name on your receipt, as I think the staff are also rewarded if they are mentioned in the hopefully glowing comments received.  I should point out that the staff that write their names on the receipt are usually extra nice to you as they serve you, obviously regular pep talks keep them on their toes doing this.

Until recently in most stores this was a national thing, but it has been mentioned to me on numerous occasions that each store now has this prize to give out once a month.  So now the odds are more in the favour of those that can be bothered to go to the website in your particular area ... it's got to be better odds than the National Lottery anyway!

In Tesco you are a winner in a small way every time you fill in the short survey, as you collect 25 Clubcard points for every entry.  

You are allowed to enter once a month, so over the course of a year this means that you can collect 300 extra points, which gets you a voucher for £3 once a year ... BUT it's £3 you wouldn't otherwise have got and every time you enter you do have a slight chance of being that lucky £1000 winner.

What I like about these store surveys is that you are not selling your soul and giving away any extra information about yourself.  You are merely reporting back on that particular shop. 

If you go onto this page which is simply a page all about the Tesco Clubcard and scroll down to the 'more places to collect' section, you can go to Shopper Thoughts where you can do some more in-depth surveys and get yourself an additional 150 points, plus more rewards depending on how much you do.

So basically the whole 'surveys from your receipts' is something for nothing, well for very little effort anyway ... and it's always nice to be in with a chance to win something.


Wednesday 5 December 2018

And Now ...

And now after the last two Challenges ... it's time for something completely different.

This popped through my letter box the other day, now I hate, hate, HATE these mailings of free pens, Christmas cards, bookmarks, coasters etc etc and empty competition promises especially when it is from a charity, any charity that says it's there to help people or animals or any good cause.

In this instance don't give me a pen ... give the money the pen cost you towards a tin of bloody cat food.  Don't promise me and thousands of other people a chance to win £25,000 ... use the bloody twenty five thousand pounds to look after some bloody cats!!

And breathe ...

But after thinking about it for a while it triggered a freebie thought.

What could I get for free, what have I got for free recently.  
What is it possible to get for free with just a little bit of effort or thought.

And so with this in mind I see seven days of freebies, vouchers and coupons coming up  :-)


Monday 3 December 2018

The Lose 14lbs in 7 Days Diet - End of Challenge Round Up

Breakfast the first day after the Challenge was a simple black coffee and slice of toast ... with homemade lemon marmalade.  The first thing I've eaten in a week with non naturally occurring sugar.

I had nothing else as I just wasn't hungry.

The all important weigh in, and I think that the thought of this was the only thing that kept me on the straight and narrow for the last seven days.

The final stats -
 I've lost 7.5 lbs
Half an inch off my bust and hips,  and an inch off my waist. 

Over half a stone and two inches gone ... I'm really pleased with this.

Especially as it's with virtually no exercise, as I hurt my left foot one day into the Challenge and couldn't get any footwear on except my wellies.  So my only exercise during the whole Challenge was slow doggy walks. 

So what did I find hard -

Not being able to pick at what I fancied.

Grapefruit without sugar was very hard for the first couple of days. 

There seemed to be food everywhere I looked, it's the run up to Christmas and tasty treaty foods seemed to be on every advert on television, every poster outside shops and in every book or magazine that I read.

Going to the supermarket for my tomatoes was very difficult ... SO MUCH FOOD!!

What did I find easy -

Having a definite menu plan and  knowing exactly what I was to have for each meal.

Grapefruit suddenly being tasty on it's own, both the fruit itself and the juice.

Travelling with my foods, one cool bag was all I needed.

Having someone else doing this with me.  Although we were apart for the majority of the Challenge being able to swap moans and accomplishments with each other really helped.

By the way Alan lost 3lbs over the course of the week, not too shabby when you consider he had extra toast with butter on a couple of times and milk in all his drinks.

Would I do it again - NO.
Even though I lost so much in a week it didn't suit me at all.

I treated myself to some crisps while I was out shopping, I know of no shops near us in Wales that sell these big family packs of totally dairy free cheese and onion flavoured crisps, so it will be nice to take some home with me.  But where as at the start of the week the bag of these that I already had in the cupboard was calling to me ... now I have absolutely no cravings for them

Perhaps that is what this diet does, switches off cravings and makes your stomach smaller.  It's now over four hours since my single slice of toast ... and I'm not even slightly hungry!!

But, and it should be a big BUT neither of us lost the 'guaranteed' one stone during the diet.  I wonder who I go to to get my money back 😆😃🤣


Sunday 2 December 2018

Day Seven - 14 in 7

Breakfast - Tinned Tomatoes and Scrambled Eggs.

It needed  a slice of toast to soak up the tomatoey juices ... Alan had one with his!!
Naughty boy.

Ironically just as we started this totally restricted diet my new cookbook arrived.  I brought it away with me to have a read ...

 ... so much temptation.

She's missed the prices off the weekly shopping lists this time, which I actually thought was one of the best bits of her other book ☹

I know prices vary very quickly these days, but having them in the book gives a timeline to the 'story' if  you know what I mean.  I love some of my old books from the 80's and 90's 'Feed Your Family for £4 A Day' springs to mind (which is now republished at £5 a day).   It's the prices that are the interesting bit ... well to me anyway.

It's still a very good book though ... even if the photographs, especially the pastry ones, did make me drool a bit.

Lunch - Two hard boiled eggs and spinach.  

I don't really like poached eggs anymore, so this was my compromise.  What normal person eats four eggs in one day ... not me ever again.  I really struggled with this it was much too filling.

Tea - Salmon fillets and salad.

I'd been out shopping and got myself some tomatoes ... but I still finished off the little bit of red onion that was in the fridge.

Naughty but nice 😊

I celebrated the last meal of this Challenge with a nice walk in the dark with Suky.  It was bitterly cold hence her jacket.  She hates being 'dressed' in anything but her collar.  For some reason coats make her walk like a little wooden table, ramrod straight legs and a refusal to go up or down steps ... even those that are only an inch high 😆😃😆

That's it I've done it ... and I'm still alive!!

Back tomorrow with the weigh in and my thoughts on this diet.