MUM-OF-TWO Julie Jeffrey’s heart leapt as she saw the 30p cut-price strawberries in Asda – down from £2.
“I was delighted and immediately grabbed three punnets,” she said. “I would never turn down a bargain like that. They can be frozen and bunged in prosecco or lemonade – it’s great.”
Other shoppers watching Julie might have admired her bargain hunting.
So they’d have been shocked to discover she’s actually a millionaire – after winning more than £1m on the National Lottery.
Still the win has not changed her outlook in the slightest. The mum-of-two and nan-of two still works as a cook in a fire station and her favourite shops are Asda, Matalan and Primark.
Hilariously, the first thing she splashed out on when she won the mammoth cash prize was a cheese-grater. “But it was six-sided and pretty fancy,” she said.
Alongside her husband Chris, she scooped the cool £1m after playing the game for eight years in June 2002.
And whereas some lotto winners spend the cash on plastic surgery and eye-wateringly expensive holidays neither Julie, 61, nor Chris, 66, quit their jobs after their big win, although Chris has since retired.
“I worked then, and still do, part-time as a cook at a fire station and really love it,” Julie said. “The day I won I actually went into the station and carried on as normal,” she revealed.
“When I got a chance I pulled my boss and aside and said, ‘Look I’ve won the lottery but I’m definitely not leaving.’”
Julie and Chris won using basically the same numbers as always – a mix of their ages, house number and a random number.
But they didn’t find out immediately.
“I was in bed reading the paper a couple of days after the draw and saw the numbers had been published,” she said.
“Suddenly I realised they were our numbers and my heart raced.
“I went downstairs where Chris was having a cup of tea and told him. He was gobsmacked.”
Their first reaction was one of “stunned silence”. “We told the kids we had won ‘some money’ but not how much and sent them to school – what else could we do?” Julie said.
She then got on the phone to Camelot where the amount was confirmed.
“We were amazed,” she said. “Things like that just didn’t happen to us. And we weren’t big gamblers.
“We only played the lottery once a week and if we visited the seaside I would go on the 2p falls machines but nothing else. I avoided the ones where you put in 10p. That was too much money.”
Suddenly I realised they were our numbers and my heart raced
She told her pals “because if you tell one person another finds out and then it snowballs” and said everyone “was kind” and no one “begged for help”.
“A few weeks later I was shopping with my friend and she said I had to buy something,” she said. “So I got a cheesegrater. It was my first purchase.”
Around six months later they bought a prefab holiday home in Devon which they still have. “We let friends and family stay there, it’s our way of paying it forward,” she said. “We were so lucky, so we want others to benefit.
“And we both got cars – Chris got a Vauxhall Zafira and I got a Nissan Micra.
“We went on some nice holidays too – before we had always gone to the same caravan park in the UK.”
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The couple also gifted their children, Amanda, now 35, and James, now 34, a house deposit. “It helped them,” she said. “But we still wanted them to be able to buy their own home so we made sure they weren’t spoilt.”
And even now, humble Julie refuses to shop in fancy places like Marks & Spencer. “There’s an Asda right by work so I go there and dig out bargains,” she said. “I’ve got some really good ones and to be honest it is the same as posher shops.”
Overall she doesn’t think winning the lottery changed her.
“But I would be lying if I said it hadn’t helped me.
“We’ve been able to do lovely things because of it,” she said. “We’re going on safari when I retire next year.
“I’ll always be grateful we played that day – and amazed it happened to me.”
Julie and Chris celebrated the anniversary of their win by helping at the lottery-funded Watford Women’s Centre (WWC). Julie is donating her fee from this article to the centre.
Chris said, “Some people might think a suitable lotto win anniversary would be Champagne on a tropical beach, but not us.”