smallholderwannabe

This blog is mainly a rambling kind of diary of the transition from smallholderwannabe to smallholder.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Mincing matters

I popped into the supermarket after a meeting at church the other evening and found a 750g pack of reduced fat beef mince for just 74p. There were two packs so I brought the other one home for my friend who was absolutely delighted. She was going to the market later on the following afternoon so she paid me for her mince with almost a kilo of mushrooms bought as an end of day bargain. So we were both happy. Bartering works!

The thing is that the freezer is full to bursting so I couldn't divide the mince up into meal size packs and stash it there. And I couldn't do my usual and stretch it into umpteen meals because I couldn't freeze the extra meals. So I had to cook it and we've eaten most of it as is, without any stretching. I find that I feel almost cheated because I quite enjoy the challenge of seeing just how many meals I can get out of a pack of meat.

After my surprise party on Saturday, we went to church on Sunday and cooked dinner for 60 people.  We served slices of cold gammon with wedges and vegetables followed by strudel (choice of plum or apple) with icecream. The gammon was cooked at church while we were at the party on Saturday. This meal was a great deal easier to cater than the three course meal we served at the church members' meeting before Christmas. I have to say that there were no leftovers! I had been hoping that there would be a couple of slices o the gammon left (cooks' perks) but no such luck.  The gammon was beautiful and just vanished before our eyes along with all the wedges. It was definitely a popular meal. 

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Monday, February 01, 2016

Happy Christmas : )

On Saturday, we were due go to lunch at a friend's. I had wondered why she had invited us about three weeks ago as we usually have a soup and a sandwich kind of lunch which is not difficult to prepare and leaves plenty of time for chatting.  Anyway, we got there and she sent me into the front room to collect something - and there was my entire family sitting on the floor and they all sang "We wish you a merry Christmas" to me.

This was a surprise Christmas party for me because I had spent the real Christmas ill in bed and missed out.  Everybody was wearing their Christmas jumpers and the grandchildren were wearing the outfits that they had worn on Christmas Day.  And there were lots of crackers and we wore paper hats all afternoon. We had a buffet because there was not enough space to seat 15 around a table but we did have Christmas pudding and later on, some Christmas cake.  They had a meeting last weekend to plan the details and shared the catering out between them. They even planned to park cars somewhere that I would not spot and they were sitting on the floor so that I would not see their heads through the window on our way into the house.  My husband was obviously in the know but had managed not to inadvertently let anything slip.

I had a great time and was so pleased that my family had planned such a nice surprise for me. Aren't they a lovely lot!

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Winter has definitely come

I was woken up both this morning and yesterday morning by the sound of the central heating boiler switching itself on. Nothing unusual?  Well, it is for us.  We don't use the central heating except as a back up when it comes on because the frost stat has dropped too low.  We have the woodburner and that keeps the downstairs warm. The heat works its way upstairs and takes the chill off there too. We have a halogen heater in the bedroom and that heats the room as much as we want.  Halogen heaters us 400 watts per bulb and ours has three bulbs.  For 1.2 Kw per hour, it blasts out a lot of heat.

We have never had to buy any wood yet.  We collect bits if we are out on a walk; we look in every skip we pass; three times now people have given us fence panels when they have replaced their fence; several times people have given us branches or whole trees when they have had trees lopped or taken down. It all adds up to free heat and a bit of free cooking as well.

When I say free heat, there are some expenses involved.  We had to buy the woodburner in the first place and we need to have the chimney cleaned each year (£40).  We bought an axe and a "bomb" to split the large slices of tree trunk.  We also bought a chainsaw and my husband wanted another electric saw for cutting up the processed wood like fence posts and rafters and floorboards.  These are all items which will last some years.   The gas bill has dropped dramatically and we are plenty warm and therefore happy : )

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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Still bargain hunting

I'm still bargain hunting.  At the beginning of the week I went to Farmfoods who had put one of their leaflets through our door.  The most interesting thing was the box of catfood at cheaper than I have seen it anywhere else by a couple of ££.  We have a branch about a 6-7 mile round trip away and not on one of our normal routes so we very rarely go.  This time I went to get the catfood for us, for both our daughters and some other things for our son and also an item for our neighbour.  They have coupons on their leaflet giving a 10% discount.  A nice little bonus as all the items I went shopping for were at good prices anyway.  However, when I had put in the trolley all the items we had gone for and an item that was on special offer that I hadn't spotted in the advertising leaflet, I was nearly at £100 and at that level, the discount goes up to 12%.  So I bought an extra box of catfood in order to get the extra £2 discount..  So everybody was very happy with their shopping and only our diesel got used. instead of four cars going.  (The catfood is dated for 18 months ahead so I can intersperse it with other food so my little moggies don't get bored.)

I also spotted on the Moneysavingexpert supermarket coupon list (well worth a visit!) that John West tuna spreadables are offering a 50p coupon.  Now at the moment, Asda have those at £1.50 for two tins.  So I printed out one coupon for me with my email address and my husband printed out one for him and I went and got the two tins for 50p total.  Now I know that it probably would be slightly cheaper to buy a Lidl/Aldi tin of tuna flakes and make my own sandwich filler.  But these two tins will be in the cupboard ready for impromptu picnics in the summer when we just take a little tin like this and a pack of rolls or pack of crackrs. Also once a blue moon or so, I like to pack something like that for a longer journey when we don't know if we will require a snack on the way or not - and if the tin is not opened than it will live back in the cupboard ready for another day.

http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/deals/supermarket-coupons

Some of the coupons are for products that I wouldn't be buying but sometimes there are coupons which stretch the budget nicely. It is a place that is worth a regular visit. For example, there is £1 off a 500g pack of Clover which is currently on offer at £1 in Asda : )  Also there is £1 off a pack of New Covent Garden soup which is on offer at £1 in Sainsburys and £1.05 in Waitrose.  Now I can't get Sainsburys to accept coupons printed at home and I have tried three different stores recently although they are fine with "official" manufacturers' coupons. Waitrose will accept coupons printed at home and I was almost passing a store when I had out collecting somebody from college on Friday.  And it counted towards my £5 spend for a free newspaper and my free coffee.  The last time I was in Waitrose I even managed to get a free bag of used coffee grounds from their coffee machine which I put in my wormery and my little worms chomp their way through and turn it into fabulous compost to enrich the soil that grows our veg. The bin was still out this visit but unfortunately there were no grounds left. : ( 

And just to make things clear, normally I make our own soup but it is nice to have it in the fridge for days when the clock seems to fast forward itself.  Although having said that, the only time I actually buy soup is when a) it is a brand that makes good soup and b) it works out to be free or near enough.

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Monday, January 04, 2016

Bargain!

A friend phoned me today to say that she had been shopping in Sainsburys today.  So we went to Sainsburys too and bought Robertson's mincemeat, 454g jars dated June 2018, reduced from £1.50 to 10p.  So that is next Christmas taken care of : )

Mincemeat is also great in baked apples, in flapjack, fruit cake, mixed with stewed apple and topped with sponge mixture.  At 10p, that is way cheaper than dried fruit.

They had lots of jars in the shop we were in so if you are passing Sainsburys in the near future...

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Sunday, January 03, 2016

So, it is a new year now...


So it is time to look back at 2015 and think about 2016.  I made a commitment to myself to lose 1000 items from the house and I only made it to 802.  Well that is 80% success and 20% failure so I reckon that is a win overall.  So, because I didn't finish my challenge, I am going for it again in 2016.  I had a bagful of things ready to go to the charity shop but going down with a bug prevented me so I have that in hand to start me off.  I've already lost all the easy things so this year's challenge to me will be that bit harder.

My other challenge to me is to lose at least 2 stone weight.  I had to see the pharmacist at our surgery a few weeks ago and he told me a few home truths.  Losing weight is very difficult to do but I've lost several lbs with this bug and still am not interested in food so I'm hoping to capitalise on that. When eating normally, I use a smaller size plate than my husband and in total eat just over half the quantity he does.  He used to have washboard ribs when I first met him but now he is "well padded" rather than fat.  Given the quantity he eats and his penchant for doughnuts (I'm not keen) - it is just not fair!

We hung just one decoration (a wreath on the front door) and some Christmas cards this year.  With two young cats, we decided not to put up a Christmas tree because we thought that the cats would just think it was another toy for them.  Given how poorly we've both been, I think that was a wise decision!  So tomorrow I'll take down our lonely decoration and put it away for next year.  I've missed having the Christmas lights but there is always next year.

I tried going out yesterday to see how I would cope. We were totally out of both milk and rabbit food so we decided to go to our local Lidl which has a car park nearby as well as a pet shop.  So Lidl were completely out of milk - they must have missed a delivery.  We got the rabbit food from the pet shop and drove to Asda to get milk and they had definitely had their delivery.  Any self respecting tortoise would have beaten me hollow by this stage and I was sooooo glad to get home. I haven't gone to church today either but am sat catching up on emails and blog reading. There are things in the diary for this week so I'd better find some energy from somewhere.

So I have set down my two main goals for 2016.  I can hold myself accountable more easily because they are now in print.

Have you set yourself any goals for 2016?


802 items out of 1000 gone in 2015
0 items out of 1000 gone in 2016

Friday, January 01, 2016

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year too.


So I am wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year too. My husband went down with a bug just before Christmas and kindly shared it with me and we are just surfacing again. We are much better today but with poorly chests, dreadful coughs and poor breathing. The bug has upset my husband's asthma badly.

I missed Christmas! We had a grand day planned with 16 members of the extended family coming.  My elder daughter was in overall charge of the cooking this year (each household takes it in turn) and had delegated various tasks to everybody. She had booked her church hall for the rest of the day after the morning service had finished. They have a lovely kitchen with a nice, new cooker. They also have a small hall which has comfortable soft seating at one end, tables that can be put together to seat everybody together and still have just enough space left for the children to run off some surplus Christmas energy. None of us can seat 16 people for dinner in our houses and this seemed a great alternative.




 
They all took photos so that we could at least see the pictures of the happy times they had together. The second picture is the quantity of  roast vegetables and potatoes to feed 14 hungry people, all kept warm on a borrowed hostess trolley.  This picture made me smile even though I really did not want to know anything about food that day. It is such a huge amount of food but it must have been good because there were very few leftovers : )
 
Since seven of the 14 people are vegetarian, we have a tradition of lots of veg.  This year they managed to serve 22 different veg plus apples and cranberries in sauces.  I think they might have got the family record this year!
 

Wishing you a happy and healthy new year in 2016

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