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

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Money off vouchers

Just in case you hadn't spotted them, there are two money off vouchers around this weekend.

ALDI - £5 off a spend of £40 voucher is printed in the Daily Mirror today.  Not quite £5 off because you have to buy the newspaper but pretty good.  The voucher is usually valid until the middle of next week.

LIDL are trying to keep up and have a £5 off a spend of £35 on Facebook. "Like" the page and it lets you print out the voucher. This voucher is only valid until Sunday 1 December.

Lidl have some interesting weekend halfprice specials:

  • pork mince at £1.14 for 500g
  • 100g bar of white chocolate for 19p
  • 250g punnet of cherry tomatoes for 34p
  • 2 packs of 250g ground coffee for £2.24
I think that I will be "liking" Lidl but I won't be able to get there before Sunday lunchtime so I'm not holding out much hope for the mince but I might get some of the others...


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

We survived!

We cooked our Christmassy meal for 70 and have survived to tell the tale : )

We planned everything on Friday evening and then went shopping on Saturday morning.  We started off in Aldi because there are a lot of the things that were on our list that are good quality but cheaper there. However, they did not have enough of anything we needed... Never mind, we said, we'll just have to go to Sainsburys which is fairly close to Aldi.  But they did not have enough of anything either!  Good job we went shopping in the morning and didn't leave it until the afternoon because the shelves would have been even emptier.  So we bought what we could in Sainsburys and then went back to Aldi and filled in the gaps.  Then we went to church and found that somebody had put lots of stuff in the church freezer so there was not enough space for our stuff and I don't think you could fit more than a stray bread roll in our freezers at home.  Fun!  So we had to get creative.

On Sunday morning, we went down to church bright and very early and got cracking.  We have a large (6 ring) domestic cooker with two ovens so everything had to get shuffled round a bit.  We served:

  • a segment of melon with maraschino flavour cherry (while they ate this, it gave us a few minutes to finish getting everything ready for serving the main course)
  • chicken breast served in a mushroom sauce (using the sauce meant that the chicken didn't dry out when swapped around with other things in the oven)
  • cocktail sausage (no bacon around them because we were up to our budget : (   )
  • mashed potato (very forgiving to prepare and cook and doesn't mind being reheated)
  • roasties 
  • peas, corn, sprouts, broccoli, carrots (carrots were fresh but the rest were frozen)
  • little ball of sage and onion stuffing
  • gravy and cranberry sauce
  • icecream and chocolate sauce/mince pie/Christmas pud and custard
  • tea and coffee
  • with the meal they could have orange juice, apple juice, lemonade and sparkling water or a mixture. (I like OJ with a splash of sparkling water best)
  • the veggie alternative was a Quorn portion cooked in exactly the same way as the chicken
And that all came to just over £150 for 70 servings.  I would have preferred some form of roast or baked meat but with the number of servings and the lack of cooking facilities, we opted for the mushroom sauce because with having to swap things around in the ovens, I could see the chicken suffering.

Thankfully, we had a dishwasher to use for the plates and bowls and several people washed up the pots and pans and cutlery for us - for which I was truly thankful!  And we slept very well on Sunday night!  But we had to be up very early because my husband had to drive to Peterborough for 9am on Monday morning.  I don't really mind cooking for the multitudes but I'm glad we don't have to do it too often.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Busy, busy

We're feeding the multitudes again.  This time it is Christmas dinner (ish) for 60 on Sunday. We are just working out a shopping list...

We are involved in doing the shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child again this year.  Only this year we are involved a little more than just in filling a box because my husband and a friend are driving round collecting the shoe boxes from collection points all around here.  They have to do a circular tour once a week for three weeks and another two people we know are doing the same.  My husband came home yesterday after his tour of duty saying that he had discovered muscles that he didn't know he had.  He had gone thinking that a shoe box didn't weigh much... : )

Anyway, our church is a main collection point, and our "checking the boxes" day is Saturday. As I shall be shopping for the meal on Sunday, I shall send my apologies for that. All the boxes have got to be checked to make sure that the things people put in them are suitable. There are some quite stringent rules about the contents, mainly to comply with the rules of the country that the box recipients will be in.  I also know somebody who has been involved in distributing the boxes to the children and the stories they tell are quite humbling.

I had forgotten to buy toothpaste for ours before they get handed in on Thursday so I called into Sainsburys on the way home last night.  I got a free yoghurt with a voucher and got a money off voucher (for something that I actually use!!) and a double points next time voucher from the till, so that was good.  I had been hoping that as I had no option but to go after work, that they might have been round with the yellow stickers but they had only done the first reductions and the price for everything was way higher than I would want to pay.  Still, I got the toothpaste and two vouchers that will actually get used so I shouldn't grumble.

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Saturday, November 09, 2013

Winter is a-comin' in

It is just after 4pm and it is starting to get dark already.  Winter is just around the corner but I have lots of goodies stored away on shelves and in the freezer. At the moment, it is the thought of paying for all the house to be heated that is the niggle in my mind.  My trusty halogen heater has been on several times and four evenings this week, we have had the central heating on for an hour.  Every time we turn it on, I have £ signs rolling round before my eyes.

Last week, away in Presteigne, I was spoilt because the lady who owns the house had the central heating set and it was locked in a cupboard so as I had no control over it, I just enjoyed the warmth. That luxury has made me feel even colder in my own home this week, though. I must admit that I would like to keep the place warmer than it is.  I am happy to wear extra layers but right now I have enough layers on to feel like the Michelin man - remember him?

We were out at a bonfire last night.  It was a joint effort between the Boys' Brigade and the church family.  Our job was to provide about 14 litres of soup.  I never did get out to the bonfire because I was stirring soup and heating baked beans and rotating saucepans on the cooker to make sure everything got heated up properly.  We made carrot and tomato soup because that was what I had in sufficient quantities to make it from.  Guess what is for dinner tonight?  Leftover soup! Everybody seemed to enjoy themselves, which was the object of the exercise, and my two youngest grandchildren were there so it was good to see them : )

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Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Holiday : )

Well, half term has come and gone but it was wonderful while it was here.  We've been away and stayed in Presteigne, right on the border with Wales.  The river Lugg is the border between England and Wales just at that spot and the river was just a few yards around the corner from our house so we were in Wales but only just  : )

The kids had clubbed together and staying in a house and having a holiday together was their birthday present to us as my husband has also recently had his annoying birthday with a big fat "0" at the end of it. Wasn't that a lovely thought!  I have to admit that they all went home and left us alone for the last couple of days and it was blissfully quiet.  We had really enjoyed the time together but a couple of days' peace and quiet to recoup before the onslaught of another half term was just what we needed.

The house we stayed in was Georgian (typical three floors with little windows on the top floor) and still had the slate flagged floor.  It was just lovely.  In the kitchen, you could see where the range had been and where the adjacent little salting room had been, now incorporated into the erstwhile kitchen which is used as the dining room, you could see on the flags the marks where the salting barrels had stood.  The salting room was on the north side of the house and had a little window about the size and shape of a large letter box to ensure the food in the salting room stayed cool. We had the benefit of a large built on kitchen which was well kitted out to cater for a large number of people staying. We also had an old, (but nowhere near Georgian) roll top bath which looked and felt so much more luxurious than our acrylic standard version at home.  

I'm always fascinated with practical history and how people actually lived. Our house had originally had a coach house but that area had been sold long ago to the neighbours who had built an extension to their house on that little bit of land but our garden still went in an "L" shape behind it. There were lots of other quirky (quirky to us in 2013...) little features that we discovered too.

The older area of the town was charming - mainly due to the fact that they hadn't invented planning regulations when these houses were built.  You built one house according to what you wanted and could afford and then the next person came along and built another house on to yours according to their wants etc.  So no two houses are the same and they are all at different heights and with different pitches to the roof and it all works together just fine.  Some houses have the Georgian look and others have beams and ancient tiles (not many thatches) and lots are jettied with that typical Elizabethan upper floor that bit bigger than the ground floor. Some of the Georgian houses had cellars so they were over four floors and I don't know how modern people cope with the heating bills for such houses...... Lots had an arched coach entrance to one side of the front and a courtway through at the back.  Some of the houses had a Georgian front but the back was closer to medieval in age.  Just fascinating! Some of the small beamed houses were of the one up, one down size and you know that three generations probably lived there together with umpteen children raised yet they look as if there would be standing room only for a family.  Most of today's children expect a bedroom each or no more than two to be sharing a bedroom.  We live such a different life today.

The rest of our family were sorting the meals (and cooking them) so that left us bringing some of the treats, which has totally blown my budget for October but it was so worth it.  I am so pleased with them all for dreaming up such a lovely present and giving up their time to spend it with us.  There were lots and lots of happy memories made.

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