Tuesday, 31 July 2012

And it went like this...

A conversation here this afternoon:

[Me] "FH, your bees are going mad out here!  You'd better come and look!"
[FH] "They are fine; I looked at them this morning..."
[Me} "But that was ages ago..."
[FH] "They are all right!" and I detect a slightly superior tone - he IS the beekeeper, after all...
Doorbell rings, and he jumps up to go and answer it
[Mrs Next-door] "Ooooh, FH, your bees are making a terrible din, I can hear them in my garden! Are they all right?"
[FH] "Oh! I didn't know - I'll come and have a look!"

And I exit stage right, quietly seething!  The bees swarmed, and he had to go and deal with it all.  Again.  The second swarm in a week, so I think I have an idea of when things are not going quite right in bee-world.

This happens frequently here - not the swarming, but this kind of conversation - I can tell him something and he takes not a lot of notice of the information, but when someone else tells him the exact same thing, it is suddenly the most important fact he has heard all year, and he comes to tell ME, whereupon I now act all interested and don't say, "But I told you that yesterday/last week/etc" although, of course, I am dying to do just that.

So is it his age?  Or perhaps he thinks I don't know what I am talking about?  Or maybe he doesn't listen to a word I say?  I hope it is the first or the last, somehow!  Or is it a man thing?

Monday, 30 July 2012

Getting to the end of the month


Sitting at the computer this afternoon, I have had one eye on the diving and then gymnastics, and the other eye on working out the spending for the month, and looking at the state of the budget.  Seven twelfths of the way through the year, the budget lines are not all accurately reflecting that, as some are underspent, especially if they are for an annual payment which hasn't yet been spent, like house insurance which isn't due until October, but some are still overspent, and aren't going to be able to recover, so they are areas in which I shall have to continue to watch the spending very carefully.

  • Grocery spend for the month has hugely benefited from the challenge I have done this month, but  it will not undo the overspending in earlier months which helped to fill the storecupboards.  This month's spend stands at just over £150, which includes the Peterborough warehouse trip and a stocking up shop from Approved Food - we now have lots of loo roll, cous cous, soup etc and i am sure it will be the later part of the autumn before I need to do another order there.
  • Clothing spends have been high this month - I have bought the YFG's new uniform for September as she needed new trousers, shirts and polo-shirts, and we took advantage of a trip to a town where there is an Asda, where there were some good offers on clothes in the George section.  I have also had to buy the EFG a few new items for her Sixth Form wardrobe - she has had a fairly limited "at home" selection of clothes, but now that she will be wearing her own clothes at school, we needed to extend her range somewhat.  And then the FH needed a couple of new shirts - he is a nightmare to dress, as he frequently stains "good" clothes when he just "pops" down to the workshop and ends up doing a spot of something messy with paint or stain...
  • I have invested £30 in buying 15 folding crates from Tesco to finish off the storage issues in our bedroom - the FH built us a new wardrobe months ago, which has four shelves above a hanging section, but we needed these crates to put items in tidily on the shelves, so I finally found some cheap ones and I spent last Sunday afternoon sorting it all out.  It is nearly finished, and I am very pleased with the progress in there.  Shame that there is no room for bookshelves!
  • The Gift budget has had a big dip this month, but within its limits - I have ordered new games consoles for the girls (Nintendo 3DS) for their combined birthday and Christmas gifts this year.  They each have a bundle of the console and one game.  It means that I don't have to worry about finding anything else for their birthdays, and for their Christmas gifts, they understand that they will just get some trinkets in their stockings, but they are happy with that.  We have made this sort of arrangement before.
  • I am getting a refund from Utility Warehouse since I moved my electricity account away from them and it is just over £100, so even with the payment to the new provider, I am still going to be about £40 in profit this month.  The DD has come down from £114 to £62 to start with, although I do think that it might go up a little when they have had a few meter readings.
Hope your budgets are all under control!

Hedgehog news

We found one of the baby hedgehogs meandering about on the lawn on Saturday afternoon, so we put it back in the nest.  The mum probably thought she could do without this interference, although she was in the nest in a ball (fast asleep?) and the other two were nowhere to be seen.  Last night, we reckon that they all moved out, as the nest is empty - we had a quick peek to see if they had all found each other again.

I am sorry that she felt the need to move on, but I can totally understand it, as she obviously knew her nest had been found, and wanted to find somewhere more secure.  I am hopeful that she has found somewhere else in the garden - there are lots of nooks and crannies where she could hide safely here, under troughs and planters, henhouses or even the lavender hedge!

We will be putting a small dish of cat food out for them several times this week, and hopefully they will benefit from it, although I can't be sure that the neighbourhood cats won't sniff it out as well...

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Liquid gold

It's raining!  I can't say that I am sorry as I have been watering my friend's garden, and her water butts have run dry, so I am pleased to see some rain to get them filled up again, so that I can stop using the hose pipe to water her tomatoes, etc.

The rain also brings an end to the heat, and a little refreshment, which is welcome after a week of soaring temperatures.  We have enjoyed the warmth, and the gardens and chicken run have benefited from the dry weather, but the rain will be good for the runner beans in particular.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Shhh - do not disturb!

A strange noise in the garden yesterday made the girls jump, so I had to investigate.  I was a little scared as I wasn't sure what, if anything, I was going to find.....

A mother hedgehog, and three babies have taken up residence under a little chook house - well, I guess she took up residence, and then gave birth.  She was rather too far into that plastic for my liking, so I gently snipped at it with some scissors and opened it up a little so that there was less chance of suffocation, and then we gently replaced the chook house and left them in peace.  

We hope to see evidence in the garden that they are growing up in the future - hedgehogs have quite distinctive droppings, and an absence of slugs would be welcomed.

It's begun...

(Image from www.bbc.co.uk)

We were watching this mini-film as part of the Opening Ceremony last night, and we couldn't believe at first that this really was the Queen walking through Buckingham Palace with Daniel Craig - but it was!  We loved it all, especially the FH, who is a huge James Bond fan.

(Image from www.bbc.co.uk)

(Image from uk.eurosport.yahoo.com)

The Cauldron was inspired, amazing, breathtaking - we were in awe!  The imagination of the designer who brought this to fruition is just brilliant.  The way that the petals were brought into the stadium by the participating countries gave each country ownership of the flame, and then the huge gift of letting the 7 young athletes light the flames was inspirational.  The ending when the petals were lifted up to become the cauldron was spectacular, although the FH was a little worried that the intense heat would melt the metal!

I'm ashamed of not having heard of so many of the countries who paraded last night - 204 of them altogether, and there were a lot of little groups of islands and atolls which I hadn't heard of, although it was pointed out to me that perhaps there have been a series of name changes over the years as well, but that has inspired me to get the atlas out today and pore over it to see if I can find some of them.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Bees and bother

The YFG had her friend here overnight after their trip to Wicksteed last night, and I got them up and out this morning to go down the village to make a delivery and put some posters up for me, but that was when the bee bother began!

The FH has a small hive of bees in the garden, and they would swarm when he wasn't here, wouldn't they?  Luckily, although I have never seen a swarm before, I had heard enough about them to recognise one when I saw one, so when the girls came dashing in again and said that they couldn't go out as there were bees everywhere in the road, I realised I had to get the FH home again before they went too far and he lost them all!  I dashed off in the car to find him, and leave him a message to come straight home, and by the time I got home about 10 minutes later, the whole swarm had congregated very nicely into a ball, hanging in a neighbour's hedge.  The FH arrived home very shortly afterwards, and put on his protective gear, then went out with a small nucleus hive to recapture them all.  He had to leave the box in the hedge until this evening, but he has them safely contained, and they are to be relocated tomorrow to a friend a few villages away who needs more bees, as we seem to have more than enough here.

Apart from all that, we have had a lovely day.  Children have splashed in small paddling pools, washing has dried on the line, teenagers have made the barbeque for tea, and I have pottered around at my own speed, and drunk several cups of tea.  I helped the EFG to clean out the rabbits, and I have done my duty watering at my friend's house whilst she is enjoying her holiday in Cyprus.

The FH and the girls are now watching the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, but I can't possibly sit still for three hours, so I am popping in and out!  Hope you all have a lovely weekend, whatever you are doing xx

Approved Foods

"We are extending our Free Delivery until midnight Saturday 28th July
Spend £40 or more on products and if you live in the National Rate area your delivery will be FREE
New Customers spend £30 or more on products and if you live in the National Rate area your delivery will be FREE
Like us on Facebook & follow us on Twitter for even MORE deals"

I have just taken that directly from an email that AF have sent me - so if there is anyone who wants to try out AF, now is the time - you only have to spend £30 as a new customer and you get free delivery.

There are lots of bargains on there to be tried - everything from cous cous (Morrison's) to Nouvelle Loo roll and everything in between!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

A little break

The car was safely delivered to the garage at 8.30am, the Wicksteed Park trip left on time at 8.45am, and I made my first foray into the chicken shed.  I tied a strange turban affair onto my head in an attempt to keep spiders out of my hair, and it seems to have worked.  All the dirty bedding was removed and the shed thoroughly swept out, and then Poultry shield liberally sprayed everywhere.

I have had a lie down and read a book for just over an hour, and had some lunch, and now I am going to have to go and put the clean bedding down so that the girls can go back in to that house and investigate what I have been doing....whilst I move on to the next house...

Busy days in the sunshine

Tuesday just flew past with the trip out, shopping!  The grocery budget remained intact, but we hit the gardening budget fairly hard, buying a new watering can, some weed membrane and some other little bits.  The household budget also purchased rubber gloves, and paper for the printer.

After fetching the EFG's friend, and finishing the shopping trip, we got home about 5pm, and then they watched some films and relaxed, whilst I pottered in the garden some more - we have put the gazebo up in the garden for some shade, so I did enjoy a cup of tea and read of a book for a while before cooking the tea for 8pm - it was too hot to eat much earlier.

Yesterday the EFG and her friend were up early and off to the train station for a 9something train into Cambridge - the YFG and I dropped them off and bought their tickets.  A few texts during the day kept us up to speed on where they were and what they were doing but the focus of their day was a visit to the Cambridge University Botanic Garden where they took loads of photos and enjoyed the sun, as well as getting some shade too in the cafe, where I understand refreshments were also enjoyed!

UJ was here yesterday for the last lunch of the season as the club is breaking for the whole of August with various helpers being away.  I have told the little group that the FH looks after that I will cook on the 2nd and 4th weeks, so they have to amuse themselves the other three weeks - they will be out and about with the FH to places, so they won't starve, I'm sure!

Last night I did a little more gardening, planting some last dwarf/French beans, and discovering that some the FH planted earlier in the year as dwarf ones are actually climbing ones, and because of where he planted them, they have nowhere to climb...sticks will have to be inserted, perhaps.

Today we are up and about early again because the FH is taking the YFG and her friend to Wicksteed Park in Kettering, her favourite place.  I have to take my car to be serviced and MOT'd, so I will be having a day at home today.  Cleaning the kitchen and cleaning out the chickens are on the agenda, and must be achieved, so no slacking here!!  The weather right now is cool and cloudy but I am pretty sure another hot day is on the cards, so best to get started early so I can relax when it is at its hottest.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Quite exhausted tonight

With the sun shining, it has been important to get out into the garden yesterday and today.  The veggie beds have been weeded in between the veg, the hayfield which was the back lawn has been reclaimed (and boy, that was really hard work!), the triffid tomato plants have been trimmed up so that we can see the fruit ripening on the stems, and some strawberry plants have been planted out at last - probably too late to be fruitful this year, but in situ for next year.

I have wielded a creosote brush this afternoon in order to prepare the outside of two chicken houses for rehabitation sometime in the autumn, and eventually, we put up the gazebo in the garden so that we had somewhere to sit and recover in the shade - it got in a bit of a muddle with the washing lines, though, where all the bedclothes were drying as I decided to make the most of the gorgeous weather and change the beds a day early.  Tonight I have sprayed weedkiller on an enormous clump of nettles in a less well-used area of the garden - I had to wait until it was getting dark as it is the other side of the beehive and so it is best to go that way when the bees have finished flying for the day.

We are also looking after a friend's chickens and vegetable garden and myriad potted things in her garden whilst she and her family enjoy two weeks in Cyprus, so we have had to have a marathon watering session there tonight as it has been so hot.  One of the chickens (she has three and a young chick) keeps getting out so we have to have a little chasing session around the garden some nights!

The inside of my house is an absolute tip, but the garden is beginning to look respectable at last!  A more restful day may be on the cards tomorrow, in some ways, as we have to pick up the EFG's friend for a sleepover, and get some passport photos taken of the EFG for her school bus pass, which have to accompany the application form, and has to be at the office by the end of the month.  We are then going to go to town to get some weed membrane and a new watering can, as ours has broken completely today.  Grocery-speaking, it will be another no-spend day, but money will be spent from the garden budget...

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Grocery challenge update

Life got a bit manic here this month, and it has been hard to keep up with the blog, hence the lack of posts lately - I'm sorry!

The first week, we spent £14.93 in Lidl, and a further £5.00 at the market and on roadside stalls selling veg, so that week totalled £19.93.

The second week, I went to Lidl again, and paid cash, and even took a photo of what I bought, but I don't have the photo available right now, or the receipt, but I know I kept to the budget, so I am going to record a £20 spend for that week.

This week, I have been to Lidl twice.  The first time was on Wednesday, and I bought:
Grapes £1.32
Raspberries 99p
Carrots 75p
A watermelon £2.00
Bananas 99p
New potatoes £1.19
Cheese £1.99
Bacon £2.29
Bread 85p
2 packs Sausages £3.50
Flour (2) £1.04

Total £16.91

The watermelon was the EFG's choice, and she made the most of it - she cut it up and blended some of it to make watermelon ice lollies in the lolly mould, she froze some slices, and then she made three jars of watermelon jam...that was interesting!

I had to go back to the shop on Saturday and came home with more veggies and fruit:

Mushrooms 85p
apples £1.59
Broccoli £1.09
Bananas 99p
Beetroot 49p

Total £5.01

Which makes the total for the week £21.91

AND....for the three weeks together, we are at £61.84, leaving £18.16 in the pot to last to the end of the month.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Amazing company

I am humbled and honoured to have a link on Merry's guest post on the WorldVision blog about ShareNiger.  There are so many amazing writers whose blogs are listed there and I don't really feel up to their company - I am going to go through all the links and read their stories too.  Do go and have a dabble, and support these bloggers who in turn are supporting the ShareNiger project.  Read Merry's post too, and understand some of the inspiration for it all.  It helps to put life into perspective, and makes me realise how truly blessed I am.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Making the most

I have had a little dabble on the internet this afternoon and been looking at the history of my phone usage on the contractor's website....downloaded all my bills for the past six months.

I used to easily spend £10 a month, usually more, on vouchers for my mobile phone, so I decided to have a more up to date phone on a contract.  The mobile is an easy way for me to keep in touch with the girls whilst they are out and about, and at school, as well as with friends.  However, it seems that I am not using it enough!

I have a package that allows me 5000 texts and 500 minutes' talktime a month.  Well, in the 5 months I have had it, I haven't used a month's worth of either!  Whoops.

So, I need to use the phone more...making more landline-type calls, phoning my friends from it instead of from my landline, maybe sending even more text messages!  We live and learn, as always, but this is something I was very glad to receive a timely reminder about in Martin's MSE email today.  I had thought about it before, but then today I read his comments, and thought to myself that I really ought to check my usage and make sure I am getting my money's worth.  I'm not, but I will!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Come on and celebrate!

A line from one of my favourite hymns!  I need to celebrate - I have finished the tax return and made the claim for tax credits - a huge mixture of "hurray" and "phew!" as I am so glad that it is done for another year.

Off to gymnastics in about half an hour, so time to go and have a shower...

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Cream crackered

Sorry, but that is what I am!  There is a lot to catch up on as real life as been very busy these past few days, but tonight, I need to put my feet up and rest, so I'll be telling all very soon!  Hope you have all had a good weekend x

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Challenge update

I am surprised but happy to report that there has been no spending from the challenge grocery budget since that bunch of carrots last Thursday!  This week's £20 remains untouched...

So, we have no squash to drink, we are running short of cheese, the bananas are finished - does it matter?  People are drinking hot chocolate, milk and water instead of squash, and those of us who drink tea aren't that bothered, so we aren't missing it yet!  Cheese - well, that is a little challenge all of its own and I am going to have to buy some as the gang do like their cheese!  Complaints are coming in over the lack of cheese, so the shops are going to be visited tomorrow whilst the YFG has her piano lesson.  Bananas are on the list, as they have also eaten all the grapes and most of the apples have been devoured as well.

The cake tins are empty too, but I am not reminding them about that!  No time for baking yet!

The tax return is still under construction, so to speak, although all the documents have been put together and it is now just a matter of writing the thing!  Hoping to get it done tomorrow.  Really hoping.

The menu this week has been a bit hit and miss, largely based on what someone fishes out of the freezer each day - we had a roast chook on Sunday, Curry in a Hurry on Monday (I had a large mixed salad), last night they had a DIY type dinner - the FH and YFG went to a concert whilst the EFG and I were at gym, and they were supposed to feed themselves before they went - the FH said he wasn't hungry beforehand so didn't bother, and the YFG made herself some oven chips, but then when they got home, the FH was hungry and had to make himself a sandwich, the YFG cooked herself some rice concoction, the EFG had beans and toast and I had a couple of leftover sausages - quite a mish mash of food and far from ideal!

I'm going to try to make more effort in the menu planning department next week, when I hope to have more time as this week has just been manic.

Hope you are all doing well and if you have any more recipes to share for the chapel recipe book, please let me know where to find them on your blog, or send me a comment with the recipe in it.  I am looking for inspiration for Frugal Family Food ideas - which can includes cakes and bakes as well as cheaper family meals.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Taxing times

I'm working on the tax return this morning - I hate it with a passion, dread doing it every year, then get it done and wonder what all the procrastinating was about!

It does take time, so I'll see you all later - maybe tomorrow...

Monday, 9 July 2012

Stockpile spends

I was invited to go along with a friend to Peterborough today, as she was going to two cash-n-carry/discount club warehouse type shops, and I had expressed an interest in seeing what they were like, and the quality of the goods they sell. Because of the distance involved, and the significant amount she buys each time she goes, she doesn't go that often - perhaps just three or four times a year.

The invitation came last week, and I debated with myself the timing of the visit, coming in the middle of a challenge month, and came to the conclusion that I would be cutting my nose off to spite my face if I didn't go.  I actually enjoyed the experience of going shopping with someone else for a change, and slowing down!

So, in the first place, where they didn't sell food, I bought new face flannels, and a couple of small gifts.  These are not from the challenge or food budget, so that was OK.

The second place was the huge food warehouse - they sold an absolutely amazing variety of food - and so much ethnic food as well; Peterborough is very multi-cultural, and I had an interesting time peering at all these foods and wondering what they were, and what they might taste like.  My friend's husband is Anglo-Indian and she cooks a lot of curries, and other Indian foods, so she was able to explain some of the ingredients to me.

I spent just over £30 in this shop:
5kg of fresh chicken breasts for £16.49 - there were 24 breasts in the pack, and now 22 of them are safely packaged in plastic bags and nestled in 11 packages in my freezer - the other two have been eaten by the family with Curry in a Hurry sauce for their tea.  This means that four servings made from two breasts will cost about £1.40 altogether - very good value for money.
3kg Dark brown sugar - £5.69 - a good price compared with the supermarkets.
6 jars of Hartley's raspberry jam - £5.29 so less than a £1 a jar, when it retails for about £1.20/jar.
2kg bacon for £4.49 - this is still in the fridge at the moment, but it is going to be portioned up and frozen too.

Total spending £31.96 which is not coming from the challenge, of course, or that would have blown the budget completely and it would not be realistic as we are clearly not going to eat all of that in one week!!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Two winners tonight

Federer won the Wimbledon championship, but Murray didn't let anyone down - he played his heart and soul out in that match this afternoon, and kept playing shots long after others would have given up on the point; he caught Federer out a couple of times by bothering to play a shot which others wouldn't have done.  He fell on his ankle twice, and that must surely have hurt, and then he almost did a backwards roll after putting a phenomenal amount of effort into trying to make a shot.  He won in a lot of ways today!

The tension...

I would say it is unbearable - but I am coping!  I have all my bits around me on the sofa, folders and calculators and general "stuff", and the laptop and I am watching the Wimbledon Men's final - Andy Murray is currently 1 set up on Federer but Federer is winning the games in the second set - ooops - no, they are now level at 4 games each!

The family, with UJ and one of the EFG's friends, has gone off to Peterborough to the East of England show, since we acquired some free tickets!  We just had to get a child ticket, and that was that - bargain.

So, I have been to church, made myself some lunch, had to do a little emergency household shopping (grocery budget is safe!) and then came home and decided to put my feet up!  There is a chicken in the slow cooker which will become tea when they all get home later, and I can enjoy the tennis in peace.

Tennis is not allowed, nor is football, when the FH is at home....

Saturday, 7 July 2012

#shareniger - helping children

Absolutely delighted to report that the amazing Merry has arranged the sponsorship of 11 children in Niger through the power of blogging - there is a picture of them all here - it is humbling to be part of something which can make such a difference to their young lives.

Look who dropped in today!

I went hurrying out the back door into the verandah to hang up some dripping leotards this afternoon, and came face to snout with the hedgehog, snuffling its way into some cat biscuits!

I ran inside and shouted to the FH to come and see too.  We are delighted to see the hedgehog back in the garden, as we hadn't seen it around for a long time - we used to have one visiting regularly, but that was a while ago, last year, even.

This one is large and looks in good condition, so I am hoping it comes around here again - if it eats the slugs in the garden, it is welcome to a helping of cat biscuits now and again!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Uncontrolled spending

I thought that the FH had no money when he went out this morning, so the budget was safe, but I was wrong.  He saw a rather tasty looking bunch of new carrots on the market, and he indulged.  That's another £1 spent......

On a more serious note, it seems that the Sixth Form that the EFG went to try this morning will not be top of her list, or even on the list!  The students she was there with do not seem to be on a par with her academically and some of the teachers seemed surprised at how much she knew.  None of the others had done all three sciences at GCSE (the triple award, Bio,Chem and Physics) and most had only the double award; some of them in the Biology class didn't understand the difference between arteries and veins, which she says is pretty fundamental to the GCSE course; and the English chap was quite impressed with her analysis of the poem they were looking and felt moved to ask about her predicted grade.  I don't feel that there will be sufficient challenge there for her, to allow her to reach her full potential.  She has mentioned tonight being interested in becoming a pharmacist, so she's aiming high - good for her!

She is trying the Sixth Form at her secondary school for two days next week, and then having a Science Workshop morning at another (her top choice) next Wednesday, so she will have a lot more experience of them all by then - so it will then be a matter of waiting to get the results and seeing whether she has a choice or whether the results have made the choice for her.

A morning at home

The FH has taken the EFG to one of the Sixth Form colleges she has applied to for a Taster morning.  She'll be there until just gone 1pm, so the FH has taken one of the older chaps and they are planning to have a look around the town, perhaps a plod along the river, eat some sandwiches and vinegar fruit cake I have packed up for them, and maybe a wander around an antiques shop they know - but he hasn't got any money so he will just be looking for amusement's sake!

I have a full morning of housework and tidying planned, and the dinner for tonight is already cooking on the stove.  I have to go to school for an 11.30 meeting, so I have several hours - better get started....

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Fudge recipe

Anyone intrigued by the mention of the condensed milk in the stash being kept for making fudge, the recipe is back in the blog in 2010, so I am linking to it HERE for you.  It is very easy, and you can flavour it as you choose, although basic chocolate is amazingly good!

First week's shopping

Tomorrow began to look more and more complicated, and there doesn't look as if there is going to be a chance to get to the shop, so I went today instead, combining my trip to Lidl with a deposit at the bank, a list of shopping a friend needed as well, and dropping off the EFG for some more decorating/babysitting!

So that photo shows you what I bought:

2 bags of red apples @ £1.49 = £2.98
Mushrooms = 85p
Cauliflower = 99p (it is a big one under those leaves!)
2 bags of carrots @ 75p = £1.50
2.5kg potatoes = £1.09
Fairtrade bananas = £1
White grapes = £1.99
String bag of tomatoes = £1.49
Lettuce = 79p
Extra mature cheddar cheese = £2.49
Loaf of white bread = 85p

Total spent so far this week: £14.93
Amount left in budget: £5.07

This will supplement what we have in stock, so I will be doing some kind of meal plan later on and will share that soon.

And then there are the freezers!

This is the meat freezer, which I have inventoried and established that there are at least 35 meals worth in there!  

This is the middle freezer, which should be for fruit and veg but it does have to take some overflow from the two smaller ones sometimes - there is a loaf of bread in there, and some chicken thighs! 

And this is the baked/bread store - although I can see some random strawberries have made their way in here somehow!  Rowan Hill bread from Lidl is the family favourite at the moment, and goes down well with them all, although the YFG prefers the white stuff.

Shadow the cat was wondering what all the photography was about, so thought she would post for a snap too!  This is her favourite snoozing spot in the verandah. 

Dwarf bean plants just emerging in the garden - a little late.

UJ donated some cabbage plants last week, but something has eaten a couple of leaves already so we will have to look for some netting to cover them up.

The lettuces are doing very well under the thick plastic cloches.  Unfortunately, so are the weeds, as I haven't had a chance to move the cloches to hoe around the lettuces.  I have hoed in between the rows of radishes, carrots and beetroot that the FH sowed, though.

Not quite Armageddon proportions...

Pictures of the storecupboards to put the £20 a week spending money for this month into proportion - we have plenty of food!!
These shelves at the top of cupboard #1 have tins of chickpeas (for hummus), soya cream, jellies, lemon tart kit, jars of berries, suet, tinned tomatoes, soup and jars of pasta sauce and S&S sauce.

That green box on the second shelf keeps some packets together - cous cous, Angel Delight type mixes and instant 6p a packet custard all live in here.  There are also some cup-a soups and biscuits.

This is right at the bottom of cupboard #1, where we have the spare baking spices, crispbreads, porridge oats, generic wheat bix, proper chocolate Weetabix bought on offer, savoury rice packets, noodles, and brown rice, popping corn, dried chickpeas, squash, Camp coffee and my flour.

Still on that bottom shelf, we have the other side: Crispbreads, plain biscuits, cornflour, and a big wicker basket filled with various kinds of pasta.

This is the baked bean stash!  Along with the beans are a few tins of soup and some sugar.  There is a lot of sugar in here, as the FH keeps requisitioning bags of it to make into sugar syrup to feed his bees in this tough weather, so I have stocked up far more than I would normally.  The granulated is for the bees and the caster is for baking.

On the other side of the sugar, we keep broth mix, lots of cup-a soups which are going to the chapel Fellowship meals occasionally - bought very cheaply from AF - the ladies have a real passion for asparagus soup so I snapped it up when I saw it on the website!  This is also where I keep the UHT milk.  We never run out of milk!

Now we are in cupboard #2, which is back to back with the first.  At the top, we have MaMade marmalade, lemon curd, plum jam, tinned fruit, etc.

A wider shot of the "shop" in the garage....Tinned fish, enchilda kits, more jam and lots of home made pickles, lots of condensed milk ready for fudge making for presents anytime they are required!

Right at the bottom, I have a tray with some dried fruit packages, amaretti biscuits I am hoarding to share with the FH's cousin next time we see him, a small packet of orange juice cartons for mixing with tinned peaches to make lollies, and some chocolate biscuit bars for the YFG's lunchboxes - those mallow teacakes are also a treat she sometimes enjoys.  They have to stay in here otherwise the whole packet is gone too fast!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The second day

Today has gone well on the spending front - my money is still in my purse!

Dinner tonight was salad bits that the FH put together for us to eat when we got home from gymnastics: lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, baked beans, tinned fish, grated carrot, hard boiled eggs, boiled new potatoes and bits like that.  Everyone takes what they prefer, and the leftovers go back in the fridge for lunch tomorrow!

The dinner tomorrow night will definitely not have potatoes with it as we have now officially run out.  I am beginning to make a shopping list which will get bought closer to the weekend - maybe on Thursday when we have to go out and about.  I know it will include some potatoes, carrots, apples, etc, as well as some cheese, but that is about it so far.

I took photos of the store cupboards today but I am on the wrong computer to share them tonight - this pc is so old it doesn't have the right slots in it for the camera card.  I was thinking about old things this afternoon when I was folding towels because I realised that the two towels I bought "for the baby" when I was expecting the EFG are not only still in excellent condition and used weekly, but they are 16 years old now.  At a similar time, I bought some dark green secondhand towels from an Army surplus shop in Cupar, and they must be even older as they still have the soldiers' names written on them in black ink!  I bought two royal blue ones at the same time, which have developed a couple of holes, but they still do the job, so they are still in active service here too.  We don't throw things away here just because they are old, if they are still useful and usable.

I do have to start moving things on a little sometime very soon - there are too many books upstairs in the spare bedroom, and some are not going to be useful to anyone, so they might just have to go to the recycling yard, but I will try to find new homes for things if I can.

Tomorrow, I am looking forward to approximately 90 minutes of ME time!  The FH will be out at his lunch club, and the EFG is going to help a friend with some babysitting and decorating - she may be feeding/burping the baby or wielding a paintbrush, but she won't be here - so I will have the house to myself, and I can be quiet.  Bliss.  [I'm only whispering in case plans get changed...]

Monday, 2 July 2012

Challenge day 1

Success is a joy to report - I haven't spent anything today!

The meals all came from the storecupboards and the freezers, and I have only been in the village to a meeting at school, so I haven't used a lot of diesel today, either.

Our dinner tonight was Sticky Chicken - chicken thighs from the freezer, cooked for about 45 minutes and then coated in a gloopy mixture of tomato ketchup and golden syrup, with garlic cloves added.  This is then brushed onto the chicken and it is cooked for another 15 minutes to crisp up.  We had new potatoes [given by a friend], broccoli from the freezer [whoopsied, and I bought about 8 packs that night, so we still have lots more!], asparagus from the freezer for the FH, and carrots from Lidl.  The YFG has been and found a couple of chocolate digestive biscuits in the cupboard, but the rest of us are quite full now, thank you very much.

I'm not sure what tomorrow's evening meal will be as we are always late home on Tuesdays from gymnastics, so it is likely to be either something I make in the morning and reheat, or something very quick to cook like pasta.......will report back on that one.

I had a good rummage in the other two freezers today, and the bread/cake one has lots of provisions in the baked goods line, so that the girls and FH will be well provisioned in that department for at least a couple of weeks.

The fruit and veg freezer is more of a conundrum: it is filled with things which we are not so keen to eat - gooseberries, rhubarb, asparagus...maybe we should call it the FH's freezer.  We are donating a couple of tubs of stewed rhubarb to the Lunch Club this week and all the old dears are getting rhubarb crumble.  They have also had gooseberry fool courtesy of this freezer!

Today has been a good day, all in all: a successful meeting at school from 9-12, then a visit to a friend who has just had a baby - I was allowed a massive cuddle whilst I fed him a bottle, and then I came home and got on with some serious research on tinterweb, and to send some emails.  I've done some piano practise, hoed the garden, fed the chooks, done some washing, weeded the greenhouse, and cooked the dinner.  Just a little ironing to do tonight.

Hope you are having a good day xx

Sunday, 1 July 2012

End of the month financial round up

I missed doing one of these at the end of May because we were on holiday, so I did a very thorough investigation today, and looked at totals, and percentages, and spending habits...

The end of June marks the half way point through the year, so it is a good place to take stock and review the spending for the year so far.

  • Having established that there is a student rail subsidy, I was able to reduce the EFG's travel fund from £2K to £1K, £900 of which is in the pot.  Only £100 still to save before September, so good going there.
  • The first water bill of the year has just arrived, and it has meant that I could reduce that budget by £40, as it gives me a better indication of how much we are using: the last bill was an estimated one but this one has been done from a reading.
  • We had a delivery of heating oil this month, so we have spent some of that budget, but not as much as I had thought.  I have left £300 in the budget for another top up in the winter, but having the wood burner has really made a difference to the heating costs.
  • I have had to increase the Internet budget by a little to cope with paying an extra £5 a month for unlimited broadband instead of a metered allowance as we had exceeded the limit twice this year.  The girls appreciate being able to watch programmes on the i-player, etc as well as being able to use the internet more flexibly.  We had considered BTVision, but as a family, chose unlimited internet instead.
  • The car insurance budget was topped up a little to cope with the £22.60 we had to pay out for the changeover of the Fh's car from the Volvo to the Fiesta - we had thought that the Fiesta, being a smaller car, would be cheaper to insure, but it turns out that it is slightly more because it is "statistically" more likely to be involved in an accident - but we saved on road tax on it, so it is swings and roundabouts with that one!
  • And so there is an extra £84 clawed back from the Road tax budget!
  • I have taken £150 out of the Holiday budget, as we had had more in there than we need.  There is still about £150 in there for the summer for the odd day out, but I also have lots of Tesco vouchers which can go towards days out/cinema trips too.  Having had our main holiday of the year, we will not be going away again as a family this year, although I know that the YFG has been invited on a camping trip with a friend's family and will need to make some contribution to that.
  • I have added what spare money I can to the Grocery budget.  The cupboards and freezers are bursting at the seams, but we have stocked them up whilst we have had the chance with offers galore in the supermarkets, and being given produce from friends' and relatives' gardens.  But there is a challenge brewing - more on that in a minute.
  • The Book/Gift/DVD budget is still looking very healthy but I have resisted reducing it at all yet, as the main gift giving season here is yet to come - the girls' birthdays are in August and the FH in November, and then there is Christmas of course.  The EFG has had to get some new books for the holiday work she has been set in preparation for the A level courses she is planning to start in September, so Amazon have had an order this afternoon, and CGP will get one tonight too.  If I can manage it, that budget will be reduced later in the year, as I would hope not to spend it all!  I have certainly massively cut back on the number of books I buy for myself and go to the library every couple of weeks now.  I have been looking at the books that several Great British Bake off ladies have produced - I like the look of the biscuit one in particular - but I have resisted - I will be asking for it in the library soon!
  • All in all, we are doing OK.  We are not spending beyond our means at all, although we are not yet saving as much this year as I would have liked.  Having said that, we have bought two new cars this year at a cost of £2995, which has come from mostly from income, so I can't have it all ways. 
So, July is a challenge month.  The cupboards are fit to burst - we don't need toiletries, loo paper, cleaning items, stationery, etc, and we are not buying books, clothes and shoes, DVDs, gifts, or trivialities.  We have a strict £20 a week for fresh food and top ups, and the rest of the food is coming from the freezers, the cupboards and the stores.

To that end, I have sorted through the meat freezer this afternoon and made a chart of everything in there, so that as I remove something, I can cross it off the list.  Having a list on the pantry cupboard in the kitchen means that I can look and meal plan the days each week and know more easily what we are having.  We also need to eat broccoli from the freezer, asparagus, green beans, pears, apples and strawberries.  I know that the girls will still want fresh apples, grapes, etc for lunchboxes, but that is what the £20 is for, along with cheese, bacon etc.

I enjoy these challenges, and I love the accountability which the blog gives me, so I hope the budget will thank me when I look at the figures at the end of the month!

Just Sing

Spine tingling moments hearing the YFG sing the Gary Barlow/Lloyd Webber song for the Jubilee, "Sing" as we bought the music from a website last night and she is practising it on the piano - she's going slowly but getting there, and when she gets frustrated with the piano, she just Sings the words anyway.  She's got a lovely voice, but not always the confidence to go with it!