Tuesday 30 September 2014

Stoptober - Enough Food to Last?

Enough Food to Last?
That title was a bit tongue in cheek because, as you can see from the photos, there is more than enough food to last the two of us and the two house guests we are expecting during October, for the month ..... and eating well at that.
As you saw yesterday the freezer is almost full to the top, and the cupboards are also pretty full, although not groaning under the weight of food as they used to be before my Challenge of the first part of this year. 
The '365 Days - £365'  challenge (see HERE for the blog) really kept me accountable and stopped me buying a lot of unnecessary things.  Unfortunately, once I stopped the challenge I found the habit of buying creeping in a little bit once again.  So my main aims for 'Stoptober' are to free up cupboard space and nip this excess shopping in the bud. 
It shows the space that is now available in the cupboards as I was able to neatly fit in the bargain packs of pasta that I bought last week.  Last year they would have had to live on the worktop awaiting a space, or be used before they even saw the inside of a cupboard.

The only food items in a non-foody cupboard are these two jars of coffee, one of which has just been tipped into the coffee canister on the worktop ready for use.  I'm so much better than I used to be ....  Lovely Hubby used to have to be ready to catch any falling foodstuff each and every time he opened a cupboard door, poor man   :-)
 So apart from a couple of one pint cartons of milk for emergency use I will be buying nothing now in readiness for my start tomorrow. I do have an Approved Food order that was placed and paid for last week arriving any day.  I was tempted by the catering sized bags of Crumble Mix that were well within date so I placed an order using some of my PayPal balance that I accrued selling some clothes last month, but these will be my last foody purchases. Each time I feel the urge to shop I will take a couple of the dogs out for a walk instead ....... leaving my purse firmly at home!!
If you're joining in with Stoptober, and I know a lot of Bloggers are, please leave a short comment and then we can all link to your blog posts by just clicking on your name and finding your Blog.  I should have some spare time in the next couple of weeks to read all about your exploits as the work will be starting on the conservatory, and as I can do nothing to help with this apart from supplying teas and coffees to the builders I should have a bit of time to spend on things that I want to do ..... that should be good!
Good luck to everyone that is taking part, and remember it should be fun, not a hardship.
Sue xx

Monday 29 September 2014

Making the Most of What You Have

After the last post I had so many comments and emails saying that you were doing exactly the same as me,  spending money to save money.  I'm pleased that I'm not the only one, but occasionally I feel we fall into the trap of spending vouchers because we have them!!  The questions we should ask ourselves are:  "Would I have spent the money I did, if I had not been lured into the supermarkets by the vouchers that they sent me?", or "Am I going shopping today just because I have a voucher?".
 I don't know about you, but in my case some of the time I think I am playing right into their hands, spending my hard earned cash on what they want me to buy!!
But I'm not going to lose any sleep over it, what I am going to do is to make the most of the food I have bought so it last me the longest time possible and makes us as many tasty meals as possible, so I can keep away from the shops for as long as possible.  I need to keep myself accountable which is something I do most of the time of course, but it's easy to stray if you don't keep yourself in check.  So I am going to use the Blog for the whole of 'Stoptober' to keep myself accountable, plan my meals from what I have and give myself a strict budget for any food I have to buy.
 I intend to give myself a budget of just £10 a week for any fresh food shopping we need to keep us eating healthily.  I will put £10 into my purse on Wednesday 1st and then another one on each Wednesday throughout October.  At the end of the month whatever cash is left over will be added to the Sealed Pot, which this year is being used for our Christmas Fund.
So what did I do with the foods destined for the freezer from the last shop (with vouchers) I did?
I worked out how much they had cost me each just in case I want to price out meals, and then wrapped them individually and placed them in a big freezerproof box.

I did similar with the Garlic Breads, so that we can get one slice out as a time if we want to.  It's always good to open these packs before you freeze them as the breads tend to be stuck together with all the handling they have had from warehouse to supermarket to home etc.

The Southern Fried Chicken portions were also individually wrapped, priced and put into a tub.  I'm glad I bought two packs of these as one pack had one thigh and six drumsticks .... and the other had one drumstick and six thighs!!

All neatly poortioned and wrapped and ready for the freezer.

And because I have most of my foods like this in big boxes the freezer is looking pretty full.  Now if I can't make this lot last for at least month there is something very wrong with me!!
We only have guests twice this month so I should be able to cater for us (and them) very successfully.  I will put a couple of cartons of milk in there after I have been into Llandudno later today ... but that is all the shopping I am getting.
Stopober cannot come soon enough for me  :-)
*** *** *** *** ***
I apologise for any mistakes on my Blog, or on comments I may leave on any of your blogs over the next few days, but I am having to do all my computer work on my little laptop as our main computer has been taken very poorly and is at the computer doctors (hopefully) being made better!!
To add to my technology woes, this morning for the first time since we lived here I have no phone signal, so I can't phone anyone either.  Ohh woe is me ;-)
*** *** *** *** ***
Sue xx

Friday 26 September 2014

It's Not Going So Well This Time

It's not going so well this time my No Spend/Low Spend September  :-(
I went out the other day to get some sparkling water and cordials from Tesco .... and somehow managed to buy this little lot.  The huge packs of pasta were on offer at £2 for either the bags of Penne or the packs of spaghetti and I was tempted to stock up.  This little, or not so little, lot will last us for quite a long time, and of course when I cook it I always do a bit too much and let the dogs have some in their dinner, they love it too.
My only defence is that it is mostly all stuff that we were running out of, but at a pinch I guess I could have rode out the month and kept to the challenge a little bit more.
Some of the haul is destined for the freezer and will be repackaged so we get the best possible use and value from it, so it's not really the end of the world, but disappointing when I wanted to keep the spending minimal.  This came to just over £57 after coupons and discounts.
Then I went to M&S to get some supplies to use up my £5 off a £25 spend voucher.  Lovely Hubby said we should use it to restock the freezer with some chicken, so that was mainly what I bought with a couple of other treaty things being thrown in to bring up the spend to the right amount.  I was very lucky that their chicken products were on offer at 25% off.
I even bought a ready meal, I know, something I don't very often do.  It was reduced and very, very tasty when I ate it after unpacking the shopping, an easy option for once.  Thinking back I honestly can't remember when I bought a ready meal !!  All the time I was eating it though I was thinking I could have made four times this amount for the price.  It was supposed to feed two, but just about fed me with some brown rice!
It total at the two shops I spent just over £80 on the food, and then the next day I went out with Mum and ended up spending money on a couple of new shirts for Winter ..... so not a No Spend OR Low Spend couple of days at all. 
 I really MUST do better.  In fact I think I will have a completely NO SPEND October.  The only way is to completely go cold turkey and keep out of the shops.  I'll have to dust off those blinkers again and wear them to dash into the shop to buy milk for Lovely Hubbys coffee and THAT will be it.
How are you doing, I bet you're doing so much better than me.
Sue xx

Thursday 25 September 2014

Musical Beds

Awww..... little Charley is all alone in Suky's bed.
That's because Mavis who is usually in with her is in Rosy's bed ... and Rosy was fast asleep until I took this picture so for once she doesn't mind sharing.  Usually she enjoys sleeping alone.
Charley couldn't cuddle up to Suky because Suky is Charley's bed ..... the smallest one!!

She doesn't look that happy about it, although I know for a fact she spent most of last night fast asleep in there.
They could of course all fit very happily in the large bed that we bought that has room for ALL of them at once  .... but that would be too easy!
Oh, and Ginger the cat is currently asleep in the dog bed that I left on the table in the conservatory.  I had temporarily removed it from the passenger foot well of the car, where it normally resides for Rosy to snooze in when she comes out and about with me.
You never know where you are going to find them these animals of ours  :-)
Sue xx

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Sunday Jobs

Sunday started bright and early, the dogs dragging us from our beds with the tip tip tapping of their claws on the wooden floor of the living room, a sound that means, let us out we need to go .... NOW!!
Once up, dogs fed and walked around the paddock and us suitably wakened with coffees, and tummies fuelled with  poached eggs on toast we piled into our oldest clothes and set too on our quarterly deep clean of the henhouse. 
I clean it out daily moving all the poos, moulted feathers and mess, laying fresh newspaper under the roosting bars, so that they live in a clean environment, which means this big clean can be done every couple of months or so, usually with the two of us working together to speed things up.
We have been having some problems recently and dealing with them as they occurred, a small outbreak of red mite, thankfully nipped in the bud as soon as I spotted them and also Scaly Leg, which makes the chickens very uncomfortable as the scaly leg mites burrow into the scales on their legs causing them to lift and be very sore.
The birds are now used to seeing me armed with a spray and run for the hills, so I have sneakily taken to going in at night just as they have settled and systematically working my way around their legs spraying as I go.  It's getting better but will still need some more spraying and monitoring.

But we decided a thorough clean of all nooks, crannies an crevices and all new bedding material was now required and so we set too.  Me scraping and wire brushing perches and boards and Lovely Hubby having a thorough sweep out of all surfaces and nesting boxes.  Once the house was  completely empty I sprayed it from top to bottom with an Anti Mite aerosol, it's powerful enough to get deep into all cracks and crevices and we left it to sit sealed completely for the length of time it took us to drink more coffee and relax on the patio to ease our aching backs (you can't quite stand up in this house, so working in it for any length of time really gets to you).
Then I powdered the house with my Diatom puffer bottle and put in all new bedding material and fresh newspaper.  Then and only then did we open the doors for the girls to inspect our handiwork.  As you can see from the picture they were quick to resume residence in the nesting boxes, and Daisy tried out the perch for comfort.

The other girls decided that if the house was nice and clean that they would be too, and went for a communal dust bath round the back of the house.

A couple of them checked out the Eglu bedroom which had also been cleaned.

It's always a good feeling to step away from Chicken World knowing that everything is nice and orderly.  The drinkers full of fresh, tonic dosed water and the feeders full of fresh Layers Pellets, even the grit dispenser was refilled and fresh treat bars hung from the branches of the Plum tree.
While I was upstairs changing ready for a quick shower, I spied Lovely Hubby already in action with his chainsaw, cutting through the pieces of Oak that were too heavy to move on Saturday.  Carefully deciding what he would be making out of each piece and cutting it accordingly.
Once I was clean and dressed I was back into action giving everything else around the house a shower, a much longer one than I had had.  Unusually we have not had any rain now for weeks and the newly planted bed was looking parched as were all the pots and tubs around the house.  So the hosepipe was sorely needed to be put into action.
A couple of hours later there was a resounding cheer from the hillside as Lovely Hubby started work on the last of the fallen trunk, we should be able to make good use of all of this magnificent old Oak tree thanks to his hard work.
A busy weekend .... but my goodness what a productive one.
Sue xx


Tuesday 23 September 2014

Using Things Up - No Spend/Low Spend September

It's still going on, this No Spend/Low Spend September!!
I haven't posted too much about it because I have just been plodding away.  There has been some spending, using up vouchers before their date was up, but buying things that will sit happily in the freezer while I slowly and steadily plow my way through the contents of the fridge.  After I had done this I was a bit miffed with myself,  mainly because I had been tempted to spend by vouchers, but £15 in total of free food was just not to be sniffed at (3 x £5 M&S vouchers) and Lovely Hubby told me to just go for it.

Now although the freezer is looking full, the fridge is looking a bit sparser, and when I put some just purchased salady things in the bottom drawer I found half a white cabbage, I dread to think how old it was, but slicing off the cut edge revealed it was absolutely perfect.  So a couple of carrots and a single onion pushed through the food processor with it turned it into a big bowl of coleslaw mix.

The chickens got the scraps, so no wastage at all - something I love.

And it was all tipped into a bowl onto a piece of kitchen roll, which absorbs the moisture and then feeds it back to the cut veggies as they need it.  Once covered with a piece of clingfilm it went back into the fridge and over the course of the next three days provided a salady crunch to all our meals.  Sometimes served mixed into some mayonnaise with a sprinkle of salted peanuts and a couple of slices of apple, and sometimes with some french dressing.

I do the same with bought bags of salad leaves, after opening I tuck in a piece of slightly dampened kitchen roll (just wet your hand under the cold tap and flick the drops water onto the paper) and make sure you exclude all the air from the bag before you put it back into your salad drawer.  This bag of leaves is still in use a week after opening and are still nice and firm.

Lunch yesterday.  Homemade Cheesy Coleslaw on a bed of Iceberg Lettuce and Mixed Leaves, with a couple of cherry tomatoes for a pop of colour.
Some of my bargain purchases, the veggies and salmon are all tucked into the freezer.  I have another plan for October that includes virtually NO spending in housekeeping AT ALL so they will be needed then.
I'll be back tomorrow to show you what we did on Sunday of our busy weekend, I thought you would want a breather from our working weekend list of jobs, hence the foody post .... I know I do :-)
Sue xx

Monday 22 September 2014

Planting Onions and Tidying in the Woodland

It's been a productive but very tiring weekend, but somehow you don't' mind feeling so wiped out when you can see the results of your labours. 
  Friday saw Lovely Hubby carrying lots of the cut oak branches and big logs up the hillside to a new log storage area he had prepared.  That sounded proper 'posh', in fact it's just a level area topped with a couple of pallets, but it does the job and levelling any bit of our hillside takes a lot of effort.
While he was lifting and shifting I had the easier job of planting out all the onion sets that we bought last week when we got the Garlic.  It turned out we had 119 Red Onions and 52 White Onions to go in.  Not too bad for a total outlay of £6, which makes them under 4p an onion.  I do hope they grow well, I swore a couple of years ago not to plant onions again as it seemed hard work for what is basically a cheap vegetable to buy from the supermarket, but we want to be self sufficient in as many things as possible and the taste of home grown far out ways anything you can buy, so I am having another bash at them.  If they grow well I will save some seed and do it all myself completely from scratch.
(To give you an idea of scale this bed is around 25' long by about 4' wide.)
So now I have all my over-wintering crops in for this year, Onions, Leeks, Garlic and Curly Kale, it feels so good to have some veggies in the beds on the hillside at last.  The last uncovered bed will be sown with some green manure as will the two at the top currently home to the Courgettes, and I'll fill up the bed half planted with Curly Kale with some green manure too, just to keep the weeds at bay.

Saturday saw us attacking the bottom of the woodland, we wanted to clear a good path to the old Oak stump, the brambles had really taken over and claimed it all for them selves.  So we both snipped away with secateurs freeing the young trees from their covering of nasty prickly brambles and Lovely Hubby set too every so often with the rake, piling it all up and taking at all away for burning to our 'fire circle' on the hillside behind Chicken World.  As there were still berries on a lot of the branches we haven't set fire to it yet, we have left it piled up as a food resource for the wildlife for a couple of weeks.  (And yes we will check for hedgehogs etc before we set it all ablaze.)

I took a photo half an hour after we had started just to show progress.  So this is almost Before (it was much much worse) ...

... and this is After.

A very prickly half days work, but so worth it.  We can now see Lovely Hubby's stack of logs and tree slices ....

... and the old Oak stump is there in all it's glory, now visible from the side as well as from the bottom of the hill.  We aren't 'prettifying' the hillside too much just reclaiming a little bit of it nearest to the house for our own use.  Mainly for practical purposes, log stores, being able to harvest the blackberries in a more controlled, safer way, and keeping access to the stump which will become a focal point on the hill above the garage and workshop etc.
We plan eventually to top it with some Welsh slate and use it as a table, with benches set behind it so we, our guests and visitors will be able to admire the fantastic view.

Of course the dogs loved us working in the woodland and spent a good couple of hours vanishing into the undergrowth, which meant lots of stopping for us to untangle Mavis who has to be on a long lead all the time.  Charley behaved herself wonderfully and kept reappearing in the most unexpected places, it helps you get in so many interesting places when you're this small.  :-)
Sue xx

Sunday 21 September 2014

What a Pair of Posers!!

What a pair of posers these two are turning into.
And they are also best mates and partners in crime!!  If the house goes unnaturally quiet I know to go and have a look at what they are up too.  I have had to move one of the dog beds this week as Charley discovered that the wooden radiator cover in the kitchen was most definitely to her liking and has chewed through the paintwork on it.  Luckily I caught her just in time and hopefully with a couple of coats of paint you will never know the little devil has been there.
My doggy doorstop has been dragged all over the house, but up to now it seems that it's just a plaything and not a meal, although the Monkey's Fist doorstop is looking decidedly unravelled!
It should, and indeed it did, look like this.  Now the rope loop has been gnawed through and unravelled, and it looks like a knot with tentacles stretching out over the carpet.  Oh well at least it still keeps the office door open .... for now :-)
Charley is a good little puppy dog though and nothing serious has been destroyed up to now.  The only thing is, she has now found that the log basket (and it's contents) are very much to her taste, and although this is not the end of the world it does make for a messy one at times.

Of course little Miss Suky snoozes her way through all the damage and looks on in glee as tellings off are metered out to the little rascal that is doing the worst of it.
Mavis is looking so much better these days, gaining weight slowly and surely.  Her milk is all dried up and she is regaining a neat and natty undercarriage.  As soon as she is a little heavier she will be off to the vets to be spayed.  No more pups for her.
And of course I couldn't leave a doggy blog post without including all of my girls, so being lazy I Googled 'Rosy the Jack Russell' and look who's picture popped up, amongst lots of other Jack Russells all with the same name.
There as also this rather fetching one of her when she was just a couple of months old.
All together now ...... Awwwwww  :-)
Someone asked me a question in a comment about Damson Gin and I cannot for the life of me find it now to answer beneath their question , so I will do it here.
DO NOT throw your Damson Gin away.  It will be perfectly fine, even after 12 months, we have left some for that length of time before.  Anything steeping in alcohol will be well preserved.  Strain the gin into a jug through a sieve lined in muslin and bottle, then if you have time, do what I do turn the damsons into THE most delicious jam.  Lovely Hubby says if you are even tempted to throw the wonderful stuff away .... throw it in his direction :-)
Sue xx

Saturday 20 September 2014

Our Changing Landscape and ..... Ooops, Another Spend Day

Our landscape is changing quite rapidly at the moment. 
The trees we planted earlier this year and looking strong and healthy, but at the moment it is the poly tunnel and net tunnel frames that are dominating the field and causing lots of neighbours to congratulate us on the amount of work we have achieved in the year since we bought this plot of Welsh hillside.
Yes, it was a year to the day on the 13th September that we got the keys to our forever home.  The first three months were spent travelling backwards and forwards between our rented house in Berkshire and our new home here, while we decorated throughout the house and got it all ready to move into.
Then the outdoor work started and it will be on-going for a long time, while we set up our full growing area.  The tunnels will not be covered, unfortunately, until the building work on the new garage and workshop is done and the driveway reorganised and tarmacked as we do not want to risk the polythene or net being damaged by any of the large machinery that will be on site.  But hopefully early in the new year they will be completed and I will be completely back in action planting the food for next year.

And why is 'Ooops, Another Spend Day', well this book landed on my doormat yesterday, pre-ordered and totally forgotten about.  Luckily I had money in my PayPal account due to selling some clothes and a handbag on Ebay recently (part of my push to carry on decluttering) so it was paid for from those funds.  So no cash out of my purse .....

... and what looks like a very good book to read through.

Hugh is my new bedtime reading, and very tasty he it is too.
Sue xx

Thursday 18 September 2014

Planting - Low Spend Day

Although this is No Spend/Low Spend September some spending just has to be done.
In order to keep us in garlic for next year the cloves have to be planted now, so yesterday saw me sat on the bench in the sunshine separating out all the individual cloves of garlic from the bulbs, counting as I went ....

..... and then on my hands and knees planting all 71 of them out into the middle raised bed.  A whole bed full of yummy Garlic.

And nearby is a whole bed of Leeks.

If you look closely you can just about see them.  Eighty Five leeks in total, enough to keep us going for a while.

I was watched whilst I worked by two little doggies enjoying the sunshine. 
Suky the Pug was fast asleep at the bottom of the hill and Rosy was running around in the woods chasing rabbits, but these two need a bit more supervision so they are tethered when I'm working on the hillside alone just so I can get on with what I'm doing and not have to worry about them and the road.
So it might have been a 'Spend Day' but it was most certainly a 'Low Spend Day' when you consider that the heads of Garlic (if they all come up) will cost me just over 8p each and the leeks will cost me just under 12p each.
It's good to get my hands in the soil again, I was worrying my green fingers would have gone rusty ;-)
Sue xx