Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Hatchery set to go

The Sebright eggs in the incubator have only days left to go until their hatch is supposed to happen, and tonight I have successfully bid on some Gold laced Oprington eggs, from the same man I had some from last year. I won 2 lots of 12, and he has emailed to say he will let me have another 6 included in that price, so that's 18 eggs. This is the same breed as the lovely Coco, so we are hoping that they will hatch successfully....I'm going to pick them up tomorrow.

We have been making poultry plans and the FH has been out to buy some wood to build me a new chicken shed. Well, I knew I was saving all that money for something! Seriously, though, we priced the size of shed I want with local shed manufacturers, and they were coming in at between £650 and £900, so the paltry amount the wood has cost me today is nothing. I shall have to turn joiner's labourer for a few days, I know, but 'tis worth it to get the breeds segregated so that I can start hatching our own eggs.

I found a great recipe for hot cross buns on an Australian savings website, so I am going to try it tomorrow. If it works, I'll share it! Must also borrow my neighbour's camera again so that I can take a photo of the buns.

Tomorrow is the EFG's last day of term, and I got her report today - excellent and well on target, so I am very pleased with her hard work. Most of the teachers have chosen the "Excellent attitude to learning" although one or two have gone for the "Good attitude to learning" choice. The Geography teacher says that she is working at level 6, when the target is only level 5, so she is exceeding his target, yet he has only given her the "Good" rather than the "Excellent" so I am not sure where he's coming from. I know how hard she works, so I am pleased.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

The poultry auction

The family returned from the auction at about 4pm, with a box of unsold cockerels in the car. Unfortunately, we had sexed them and got it wrong. What we thought was a hen was in fact a cockerel so instead of entering a Pair of Buff Orps, I had sent a couple of boys along, and the auctioneer's staff had put a notice on the pen saying that they couldn't be sold. On a happier note, the two Buff Sussex hens, two Barnevelder hens and two Black Orpington hens all sold, for at least £30 each pair, so I am pleased. I know the auction house will take its cut, but I should have a nice cheque coming my way within two weeks.

There were no Gold Partridge Orps in the auction at all, so I think that they might be the kind to breed! The cockerels are back in the pen here with their third brother, and have settled in for the night now.

My dad and MB came over this afternoon for a visit, and then UJ has phoned this evening, too. My sister is going into hospital tomorrow to have her bunion "done" so I must phone her on Tuesday to see if there is anything I can do for her. Gym is finished until 20th April, and the girls finish school on Wednesday (EFG) and Thursday (YFG) so we are on the home run to Easter now - hooray!!

Changing the clocks forward last night has made me sleepy and it is only 9.30pm so I am about to head for bed.

Receipt round up - for the final time

Yes, the final shopping trip happened yesterday:

2 tins cat food 90p
tin tuna 45p
box frozen fish (4 pieces) 2.00
mozarella 47p
BOGOF cheese (so 2 x 400g packs) 3.99
bag small apples 1.34

Total - 9.15

That left enough to buy some small Easter treats for friends at school - another £3.

By my calculations, that leaves me 16p from the original £100 for the church collection next Sunday........as long as we don't spend it in the meantime. I'm not tight enough to just put 16p in the collection - I will put our usual amount in as well.

This has shown us that it is possible to do this, to eat well and not feel that we have struggled to find food to eat when we have plenty of ingredients in the house. I will be honest, the girls have said that there was "nothing" to eat occasionally, but that has been because they have seen a lack of ready-prepared, ready-to-eat stuff. When I have pointed out to them that they could make a sandwich, have some fruit or pop some corn, they have seen that there has been food to eat! Similarly, the fridges have had a little less "Stuff" in them - I have kept the bacon frozen to avoid it being eaten as bacon sandwiches for breakfast every day, I have bought less ham/pepperami for sandwiches and pizzas because in my experience they don't get kept for the sandwiches and pizzas as they get eaten too easily as snacks!

The family has gone to take the poultry to the auction today near Mildenhall, so I knew last night that I had to make them all a packed lunch. So yesterday at the shops, I made sure I had some fruit (the apples) and some sandwich filling (some of the cheese) and then yesterday evening, I made some lemon madeira cakes with some lemons I had had here for while and needed using up. I also used up the end of a bag of mixed dried fruit and made the FH a fruit cake. They have gone off with enough food to keep them going for the day, and then they will have their chicken dinner when they get home this afternoon.

I can see an online order coming from Asda in the near future to restock the pantry! I have enjoyed this challenge, and the bank balance has benefitted from me not going shopping and spending £50-£65 each week. There has also been less wastage which can only be a good thing. We will have to try to keep doing all the good points, and learn from the whole experience.

We have a winner!

The book will be flying northwards to Susan - thanks to you, Susan, and Toria for entering your great recipes. They will both be featuring on the menu here in April. Can't say which of Katie Fforde's books you will be getting, Susan, until I get to the shops/Amazon and see what there is in stock - they are all good! Give me a day or two and it will be on my "to do" list...

Saturday, 27 March 2010

From here to the end

The end of the challenge is in sight, and just now I have to think about a shopping list for after gym this afternoon. To do that, I need to think about the menu for the week, which is going to look like a rehash of last week's, I'm afraid, since there were a lot of changes last week due to my illness.

Today - Bacon pie
Sunday - Chicken 1/4s with roasties and veg
Monday - Macaroni cheese with greens
Tuesday - Sweet and sour Quorn chunks with rice
Wednesday - Meatballs with HM sauce and spaghetti
Thursday - Baked potato night - with tuna or beans or cheese
Friday - HM Fish and chips
Saturday - HM pizza
Sunday - Roast leg of lamb

The shopping list so far looks like this - cheese, cat food, fish, mozarella, apples and a tin of tuna. I think that there will be enough to buy the girls some Easter gifts for their friends at school if we budget for them carefully and choose wisely!

Friday, 26 March 2010

Last call for giveaway

I'm going to give you (all - is there anyone there??) until Saturday night to send in some recipes for the giveaway - come on, you know you have a recipe everyone loves and asks you to make - share!

The YFG has been at home today feeling slightly off colour, but thankfully NOT with the stomach upset! She's made a new email penpal in Indiana who also loves gymnastics and is 10, watched some TV, played some games on the computer, eaten some cake, been out with her dad for a wee while, and we've been to gym tonight. I was operating on just an apple and a sausage - almost running on empty - so I was a bit fragile, but I am doing OK. I rested up during the day somewhat, reading and just pottering, rather than trying to work my way through a list of chores the way I usually do. I did make some more French sticks this morning, but that was about the limit of my energies!

I'm off to bed now to finish a book over a cup of tea. G'night all!

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Send a man shopping?!?!

Well, not being entirely fit at the moment, I didn't have a lot of choice, now did I? The other day I asked for a "few" potatoes - as in enough for a meal as I knew I had been promised some more from A, so I didn't need a lot - he came home with a 25kg sack.....oh dear. £3.99 down there.

Today he was going to St Ives to see someone and could call in at the Co-op in town on his way home, was there anything I wanted? As it happened, there were a few things that we needed, so I made a little list: a bag of apples, a jar of cheap lemon curd, a packet of sliced ham, some broccoli and a bar of chocolate for me for a cake I want to make later on in the week, perhaps at the weekend.

The bag which was brought back is slightly different: a "reduced" wholemeal loaf 40p, Gale's lemon curd 99p, the bar of chocolate 1.19, ham 2.75, "reduced" braising steak 3.60 and the apples, £1. Alas, no broccoli. But bread and meat which were unrequested and un-needed since we have enough of both in the freezer. So his total spend, with the potatoes, is now £13.92.
This brings my available pot of money for the remainder of the time down to just £12.31. There's not going to be a lot left! Thank goodness that there are just 9 days left of this challenge. I can see that I will have to buy Easter eggs on Easter Sunday for the girls - hope that there are a couple left somewhere...Good news is that I have a whole leg of lamb in the freezer for Easter Sunday lunch, bought some time ago, reduced of course!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Wednesday Woes

I am feeling decidedly pathetic. I have had some kind of stomach bug since Monday evening, and still feel listless and basically knackered. Good job that today the FH went out for his lunch and the girls have taken advantage of those two portions of lasage that were left over last week and frozen.

This kind of thing often hits me at the end of a term and I feel that it is my body's way of saying, "Whoa! You need to rest NOW!" and because it usually comes along with diarrhoea which keeps me housebound, I do rest. I have done very little today at all - this morning I helped the FH sort out some bit and pieces for about half an hour and then when he went out, I sent him with a shopping list. I sat down and watched a DVD and snoozed. I snoozed much of the afternoon and have had more sleep in the chair by the fire since they have eaten tonight. I am reading a thick book, and not doing much at all. The ironing heap is getting bigger, as is the washing heap, and the floor could do with a hoovering, but it won't get done by me at the minute. I felt that I was letting people down last night when I was unable to go and help out at gymnastics, but there was no way I could go. Luckily for her, a friend gave the YFG a lift so she didn't miss out completely.

I have sent my apologies for a meeting I was scheduled to attend tonight, rearranged the next couple of days' work with the FH and generally cleared the decks so that I have some time to recover - I am hibernating!!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Toria's recipe - keep 'em coming!

"This is my go to recipe, made from things we always have in the cupboard.

Tomato & Tuna Pasta

Chop an onion and saute in olive oil until just soft. (I buy onions in bulk, prechop them & freeze, so that counts as cupboard to me).

Turn up the heat & add a can of tomatoes. (Note: for just 2 people use a small can, for a family use a larger can or 2 small cans, this is an easy recipe to modify the number of servings). If your can is not chopped, then prechop, otherwise just throw it in. Cook the tomatoes on high for about 10 mins. Flavour with a bay leaf & some pepper (lemon pepper if you have it)

Open a can of tuna & drain. I prefer the tuna in oil, but have made this with the ones packed in water as well. I've also made it with flavoured tuna once (chilli), when it was all I had in the cupboard. Again, choose your size - use a 95g tin for just 2, a larger can for serving more.

Lower the heat & stir the tuna through. Cook for about 5 to 10 mins. Fish out the bay leaf when done. Stir some freshly chopped parsley through if you have some, but don't fret it if you don't.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to the boil & cook some pasta. I prefer linguine with this, but will use what is in the cupboard.

Drain pasta & serve."

Thanks for taking part!

Eggs in the incubator - and Giveaway reminder

The EFG and I have just candled the Gold-laced Sebright eggs which I have been nurturing in the incubator. Two look like there may be a chance that something will hatch but the other three are not fertile and we have discarded them. However, I have continued to collect and keep separate all the other eggs that the bantam has laid and do have four more - when I have six, I will pop them into another incubator and give them a go too.

The recipes are not flooding in, so come on! Dig out those family favourites and let's share them!!

Monday, 22 March 2010

Recipe from Susan in Scotland

Here's the first recipe in the giveaway. Thanks, Susan, I'm looking forward to trying this out when I can get to the shops to buy some curry powder or paste!

"Hello Fen family - I'd love to share the Mackay family curry sauce receipe. It's really simple to make, easy to adapt to whats in the cupboard and made from basic storecupboard ingredients.

For the basic sauce (serves 3-4)
Roughly chop 2 largish onions, 2 cloves of garlic & 1 chilli (this can be omitted if you don't want it too hot!)fry until softened but not coloured in oil. Add approx 4 heaped teaspoons of your prefered curry paste (we usually have madras) or curry powder to taste & fry for another couple of minutes. Fling in a tin of chopped tomatoes and about 1/2 tin of water & a stock cube (veg or chicken) and leave to simmer until the onions are soft.

Now comes the fun bit - liquidise (I us a stick blender in the pan and usually end up wearing some of it!) this gives you a lovely smooth basic curry sauce like the local takeaway and can be adapted depending on what is in the cupboard/fridge.

Add a sachet of creamed coconut for a ceylon curry.

A dollop of mango chutney for a patia type curry.

For a creamier version add 2 or 3 spoons of natural yogurt at the end of cooking and a handful of fresh coriander.

Add any type of fresh meat/fish/veg or leftovers.

I usually make a double batch of the basic sauce and freeze half.

Yum feeling quite hungry now....

Susan in Scotland - where it actually feels like spring hurray!!!"

400th post

Today is the day - the 400th post. I thought that if I made the post first thing on a Monday morning, I would give everyone who reads a few days to enter my giveaway.

Let's share some favourite recipes - what does your family love to eat? What do you love to make for them? Perhaps you could share your best time-saving recipe or the one you make when the cupboard looks bare....

Send the recipes in as comments and I will publish them here so we can all try them out. On Friday 27th March, I'll pick a name out to win a Katie Fforde novel. I can't say which one yet as it will depend on which one the bookstores in town have in stock, but they are all great! It will be a good reminder for us all that busy mums and cooks need to put our feet up now and again and relax with a good book - and I will send this one anywhere, so don't be shy!

Sunday, 21 March 2010

A slow day

We're all a little bit off kilter today. We've pottered around and not been anywhere much at all, and seen no-one except neighbours. I cooked the chicken for lunch and we ate at about 2pm, and then eventually had a snack-ish tea at nearly 8pm. The girls are tucked up in bed now and I am shortly to follow them.

The FH has hurt his ankle again and so he is hobbling around on crutches. It is bandaged up but it feels better when it has weight on it so he is not putting it up on a stool but keeping it on the floor. He has had to spend most of the day watching TV in front of the fire - it's a hard life. I have done some baking this afternoon - a sponge cake for tea, the Viennese biscuits for the YFG in particular and some chocolate slab cake for everyone. The chickens have done me proud - 10 eggs today, including two bantam eggs.

Saturday, 20 March 2010


I have been having a bit of a rummage in the freezer this afternoon. There are spends to update in a minute, and I was beginning to get concerned that we weren't going to make it through as we were running out of meat. I should have dug deeper sooner!

Current list of meat in freezer:

Chicken quarters (3 in bag)
2 portions HM lasagne leftovers
2 meals' worth of meatballs
2 pkts my sausages (ie Free From)
1 pkt chicken livers
1 pkt Quorn mince
1 pkt Quorn chicken-style pieces
3 packs bacon rashers
1 bag cooked turkey
1 pkt sausages.

So, I thought that I would postpone tonight's plan for meatballs as they have loomed large on the menu lately, and cook the Quorn mince instead - very handy for when I have forgotten to take anything out for dinner and it very conveniently cooks from frozen. I can't eat it, so I'll probably have some fish as there are two small pieces in the freezer.

Yesterday I spent £2.50 on mandarin oranges (2 for £2.50 offer) and today I have had to buy Clover spread (£2), Vitalite (98p) and cheese (400g block of ligher Cathedral City for £3.99). Total there - £9.47 leaving £26.23 in the pot, and exactly two weeks to go.

Given what we have available, the menu for this week ahead is going to include:
Monday - turkey pie (puff pastry in freezer)
Tuesday - FH to cook - pasta with sauce and grated cheese
Wednesday - meeting at 8pm - Toad in the Hole
Thursday - Bacon pie (my concoction - bacon and onion on a base of mash, covered with beaten eggs and a smidgen of grated cheese)
Friday - FH to cook - Jacket potato night
Saturday - Chicken quarters, roasties, veg
Sunday - poultry auction - Quick meal - meatballs and spaghetti with tomato sauce

Today I think that the past week and the very long day at the gym competition last Sunday has finally caught up with me as I feel absolutely shattered. Gym this morning was fine and we started working the older girls on some new things, which pleased them, and it kept me challenged too. After picking up the shopping from Tesco, I was ready to come home and go to bed! I did as well - which was lovely until I got a phone call and sat there chatting for about 15 minutes so I decided that I might as well get up. I think I'll be early to bed tonight.......

Friday, 19 March 2010

So how's the menu plan?

It's working out, little by little.

Tuesday was the Corned Beef dish, Wednesday was the unplanned lasagne, yesterday was the haddock meal and tonight will be the frying steak with wedges. Tomorrow will probably be the meatballs and then the roast chicken on Sunday. I do like a roast dinner on a Sunday!

The lunchboxes are doing OK as well - the YFG is enjoying the banana bread and the EFG the carrot cake. There was no fruit that the YFG likes left this morning, so she has had a cut-up carrot, and she loved the jelly she had yesterday. I was worried about the packing up whilst we were on the challenge as the YFG has fads in which she will love something for ages and then suddenly take a dislike to it. That's fine if I know that she is fed up with something but it becomes a pain when I don't realise! She usually asks for the item again within a few months, so I think that she just wants a change. I'm planning some Viennese biscuits from here this weekend so I hope that some of them make it through to Monday to perk up the lunchboxes for a day or two.

Breakfasts are plodding along in a bit of a repetitive fashion - the FH has porridge most days, the EFG toast and the YFG one of hot cheese sandwiches, eggy bread or a sandwich. I'm on whatever I can find - sometimes leftovers, sometimes I treat myself to a sausage, occasionally I open a value tin of broken grapefruit and that lasts me a couple of days.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Gardening again

After a quick trip to town this morning to make a delivery and see a friend, I have really spent the rest of the day in the garden! Tidying up has been the name of the game: vacant chicken houses have been spruced up and put into storage, empty rabbit houses have been cleaned and put back into use as the buck called Guiness has been evicted from his penthouse which is due for demolition soon, so he had to find a new home. He is snuggled down in the straw tonight and has made himself very much at home already. I have also moved lots of odd bits and pieces which were lying around and generally tidied up everywhere. The yard looks much better, and I feel brighter for all the fresh air!

The EFG's after school class was cancelled today but she didn't find out until after her bus had already left, so the YFG and I made a quick dash to pick her up, and then we gave her friend a lift home to the other end of the town too.

Tea tonight was the smoked haddock kind of dish - it ended up as a vegetable risotto with the smoked haddock cooked and then flaked through the rice - I thought it was nice, and it was certainly all eaten!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Menu update

The YFG demanded lasagne last night on the way home from gym. She doesn't often make known strong views on food, being a happy-go-lucky kind of kid most of the time, but she said she thought that she "needed" some! You will have seen that there were no mince-based meals on the menu, as there was no mince in the freezer - so I had to do a little shopping today. £3 spent on 700g mince. I made a big lasagne which fed the three of them for supper and two large portions went straight into the freezer before they could be eaten as seconds! I also had a portion myself but I took mine out before it was made into lasagne and just served it with rice. That spend means £37.70 left.

I made a banana cake in one of the bread machines this afternoon to use up some very ripe fruit, and I have made up some jelly tonight, both in an attempt to make something more interesting for the lunchboxes tomorrow.

In the garden today, I have dug over one of the veg beds as the sun was shining and it was a lovely day to be outside. Some of the dead plants that were hanging around in the greenhouse also got composted, and it was cute to see the cat asleep on the bench in the sun in there too.

Heading for 400

This is the 394th post, so I shall have to think what I might do to celebrate the 400th which will surely come soon. Perhaps another giveaway - what can I find to give??

Yesterday was a busy but good day. I had errands to run in the town in the morning - no spending for the challenge, thank goodness, but bills to pay and things to do. I came home to a lovely baked potato for my lunch which the FH had popped in for me, and then I sat down and put my feet up for half an hour before it was time to go and get the YFG from school and head out to gymnastics for the evening.

We put the big airtrack up for the children as they haven't been able to have that out lately as it is in the way when we are training for competitions. They love it and had a great time on it last night - sometimes just having fun and sometimes doing some good gymnastics!! A photographer came in from the local paper at 6pm as the classes changed over so that we could get a photo taken with some of the children and a cheque for the money we have raised for the DEC Haiti Appeal - £1,383.85. They did so well to raise that much, and blasted through the total of £1000 that we had said we wanted to aim for. I think that will be in the paper next week, so we'll keep our eyes peeled for that!!

In the garden, the garden beds are drying out and I want to get another one or two dug over this week/weekend. The glorious sunny weather means that I can also line-dry the washing, so I am washing everything which looks the slightest bit grotty! There are five Gold-laced Seabright eggs in the incubator and we will be candling them at the weekend, so I am crossing everything that at least a couple are going to prove to be fertile. I'm going to order some more eggs from Steph this week so that I may be able to get them in the incubator to hatch a week or 10 days after these ones.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Shopping roundup

Whilst the EFG was at band practice tonight, I took the opportunity to go shopping. Here's my list:

Blackcurrant squash 1.49
UHT milk 4 @ 49p = 1.96
Instant potato 1.28
Mushrooms (reduced price) 2@15p = 30p
Vitalite 98p
Stork margerine 1.23
2 loaves white bread 1.00
Dried spaghetti 54p
Oranges 2 for 2.50

Total £11.28 so £40.90 left in the kitty.

I have done a menu plan for the week ahead. These are the meals, but in no particular order yet:

A smoked haddock risotto/kedgeree type dish
Meatballs with spaghetti and HM pasta sauce
Frying steak and HM potato wedges
Pasta with HM sauce
Baked potato night (cheese or beans....)
Roast chicken and all the trimmings
A Corned beef dish - either corned beef burgers or corned beef hash

I have all the food in storage that I need for those meals, as well as bread, fruit, milk and breakfast foods. The hens have laid half a dozen eggs today between them, so the FGs will be able to have fried eggs, eggy bread, etc for their breakfasts. I still have carrots, parsnips, cabbage, broccoli, apples and bananas left from the last shopping trip. I was also given some lovely cooking apples by an older gentleman at the band practice this evening - cue apple crumble any day very soon!!

I am just now baking some carrot cake and some bread rolls for lunchboxes this week and the smells coming from the kitchen are tantalising!!

Gymnastics success

What a weekend!! We had extra training again on Saturday and then came home to get everything prepared to go out early on Sunday. It was a really early start, and we left here at about 7.30am to meet up with some people to whom we were giving a lift to Peterborough; we had a carful - another coach, a gymnast and the gymnast's dad as well us the YFG and I. We arrived at the venue in plenty of time, and picked out a good spot for the YFG to sit and spectate for the sessions where I would be looking after gymnasts and she would have to sit and watch.

The six girls we had in the first session were all there bright and early, full of beans! It was a good morning, and they collected some medals, too. The second session also went well, but only 2 of the six girls in the that group medalled. The other four were taking part in a huge group of 30 gymnasts and tried hard, but didn't manage to win anything. Then the YFG's turn came, along with 13 of our other gymnasts - four boys were also included in this group. They looked very smart in their new club T-shirts. This group was the most successful of the day, with every gymnast gaining at least one medal, some of them two and some even three or four!!

Last year the total was 34 medal, including 11 golds, and we at the club were pretty pleased with that. This year, however, we managed to get 49 medals: 24 golds, 19 silver and 6 bronze. The YFG got herself a gold on the vault and a silver on the beam, so she was very pleased and I was so proud!!

The timing of the whole day over-ran considerably so we finally returned home last night at about 10.15pm. The YFG had a quick cheese toastie and hit the hay - a thoroughly exhausted girl!

Friday, 12 March 2010

Frantic Friday

Today was going to be a housework day, but then we got a call to say that something had to be picked up from Cambridge and off I popped! I combined this trip with another visit to the County Archives, so all in all, it took me nearly 3.5 hours, and I took our neighbour with me for a ride - he loves to get out and about to see the countryside, and he is in his late seventies/early eighties so he always has plenty of tales to tell as I drive along: he makes great company.

So I got back at about 2pm, ate some lunch, sat down for a while with the FH and then it was time for gym....the YFG and I returned home again at about 9pm, ate our supper and here we are - she is ready for bed and I will not be far behind her!! I just have to wait for the washing machine to finish so that I can hang some washing near the fire, and then I'll be off.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Spending today

Briefly to update the spending, I have bought some onions and some orange squash today, so £1.48 spent.

That's £52.18 left in the kitty...

On the menu, today's lasagne went out the window and a home made pizza (planned for later in the week) took it's place. I'll have to have a rummage in the freezer to find something to replace it on Saturday, but it is possible that it will be pasta with home-made frozen tomato sauce, or perhaps a vegetarian lasagne with that same sauce - there are lots of pots of it in the freezer!!

Monday, 8 March 2010

Government recommendations - do we measure up?

Prima magazine is running an article this month about spending and saving, so I turned straight to that page, of course!

It says that the UK Government recommends that we use our income in these proportions:

32% living costs (food, clothing, transport, childcare, education and healthcare)
25% housing costs (mortgage/rent, council tax and utility bills)
18% entertainment (eating out, alcohol, tickets to cinema/theatre/events, days out and hotel costs)
17% taxes (national insurance and income tax)
4% pension contributions, savings and loan repayments
4% insurance - life, health, home and car.

I was, as you can imagine, very interested to see how we measure up to this.

We come in under budget on living costs, housing costs, entertainment (you just knew we would on that one, didn't you!!), and taxes. We put a much higher proportion into savings, and we spend a little more on insurance, probably because we insure two cars and a motorhome!!

It was eye-opening to find that they would expect people to spend so much on entertainment - Amy Dacyzyn would have a fit!! Like her, I would much rather do something that I enjoy which also contributes to the household by saving money than go sit on a beach for two weeks doing nothing!

You might want to check out how your family's spending compares with the guidelines.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

A day in the garden

The high pressure is continuing to settle over the UK and we had another bright, clear day today. I have been tidying up in the garden, cleaning out chicken houses and digging over a raised bed in the veg patch - only 4 more to do. I have moved some of the chickens into smaller, separate houses as they have been entered into a Spring Poultry Auction on 28th March, so I needed to get them a little less muddy than they have been!! Three Buff Orpingtons, two Black Orpingtons, two Barnevelders, two Buff Sussex and the pair of Silver Laced Wyandottes are on their way to new homes in three weeks' time.

The girls have been on the computers and also outside on the trampoline today. The EFG cleaned out some rabbit hutches with the YFG assisting. Then their friend T came around and they all sat on the trampoline together, and I could hear their laughter in the house. Good times all round.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Beginning to wonder if we can make this through!

I am beginning to feel like we are "struggling in the fens" at the moment. The FH looked into the fridges last night and commented that he hoped I would be shopping today as there was nothing in the fridge...well, "nothing" that was instantly edible is what I think he meant! There was some baking margerine, some Clover for spreading, apple butter, some milk, some sweet potatoes, and some lard. So, yes, I did shop today, and I did spend more than I had hoped to spend:

Reduced price wholemeal loaf 19p
Condensed soup for pasta bake 37p
2 corned beef @ 1.32 each so 2.64
Reduced price wholemeal loaf 45p
Mozzarella 47p
Branston beans 3 for £1
Mature Cheddar 500g packs 2 for £5
Dove's Farm flour for me £1.88
Vitalite 98p
Green grapes 2 for £3
Mandarins 2 for £2.50
Savoy cabbage 50p
Bag of apples £1.64
670g broccoli for £1.74
Mushrooms 79p

I was given a Tesco bag full of beautiful Picasso potatoes this afternoon, which will be used for baked potatoes, wedges and roasties as they are gorgeous! Thanks, A!

Hoping that I am adding that up right, it comes to £23.15. The kitty is looking seriously depleted now, with only £53.66 left for the remaining four weeks of the challenge - that amounts to just about £13.40 per week.

Last week's menu plan worked well, except that the vegetable risotto became a home-made pizza and the planned pizza today has had to become tuna pasta bake, hence the tin of condensed soup bought today.

This week's plan:
Sunday: Roast chicken, stuffing balls, roast potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, green beans and parsnips
Monday: Chicken leftovers and vegetable risotto
Tuesday: Shepherd's Pie (I have a huge pack of mince so half will be today's SP and half will become Wed's dinner)
Wednesday: Lasagne
Thursday: Baked potatoes and beans
Friday: HM Pizza
Saturday: Meatballs and spaghetti.

I am now thinking that I am going to have to work a little harder to use what I have here in stock if I am going to get through to the end of this challenge successfully. The ideas I have had so far include making our own bread, and increasing the meatless meals in the week. There is still quite a bit of meat in the freezer, and four chooks on death row to supplement that, but that probably wouldn't last to the end. Buying meat would take a big chunk of the budget so I am going to look at more tuna based meals as well! Any ideas would be welcome....

Apart from all that, it has been an interesting week. I have done several book fairs, been to the Women's World Day of Prayer service yesterday lunchtime, been to gym as usual, and read an excellent book. "Winter Solstice" by Rosamund Pilcher is a lovely, heart warming read and I couldn't put it down!!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

UFOs in Fenland tonight

We were coming home from town at about 7.15pm tonight when the YFG said that there were strange lights in the sky and I should look. I explained that when one is driving, one should really be looking at the road ahead and not trying to look at lights off to the right in the sky!

"Yes, but Mum, they're UFOs!" says she.
"No, they're probably just aeroplanes from the RAF," I suggest.
"But you don't KNOW," it went on, "So they are UFOs because we don't know what they are. They could be helicopters, too." So yes, I agreed that since we couldn't identify them, they were UFOs. Anything for a quiet life!

Today has been a cold but clear day, and we've been out and about. The FH has been to his weekly lunch, with his friends. One friend has sent me five duck eggs to put in the incubator - that is going to be interesting as I will need to find out how long to incubate them and at what temperature. Not sure what he wants to do with the ducklings if we are successful!!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Spending today

Just a quick note of what I spent today - £2.50 on two packs of mandarin oranges (on special offer) and 98p on Vitalite margerine (which is the nicest tasting dairy-free margerine I have found).

That is a total of £3.48 spent today. Total remaining in the "pot" is £76.81.

The sun continued to shine today!! High pressure is dominating the weather charts at the moment, long may it continue...

Monday, 1 March 2010

1st March

March has arrived as a perfect Spring day! The sun has been shining beautifully this morning, and the views across the fields are great - we seem to be able to see for miles - a great antidote to the rain and misty mornings we have been having. AND I actually hung some washing out on the line so fingers are firmly crossed that it gets properly dry. To aid the celebration of Spring, I was delighted to find two eggs in the Seabright house this morning - so I am thinking about booting up the incubator at the weekend. If I can get half a dozen eggs from her, I will definitely do it. The cock bird is treading her regularly so I would think that they might be fertile!

I bought the mozarrella cheese this morning for the pizzas later in the week, costing 47p as predicted, which brings the total remaining down a little further to £80.29.

The water levels in the Fen drains are higher than I have seen them before, which is testament to the heavy and persistent rains we have had here lately. I am hoping and praying that the rain eases up now as the time is coming to begin to prepare the garden beds for planting, and the chicken runs desperately need to dry out too.