Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Comments and dealing with produce

Thank you for all the comments on my food budget post.  Pam yes we've given quite a lot away this year, we'll not grow so much of those things next year.  As Dawn says, I am hoping the next few weeks will throw up some highlights of things that we can address.  I do get the occasional order from Approved Foods, we also have a look in Aldi sometimes....there's also a Lidl but we rarely went in there....having had a quick look round the other day I was quite impressed so we will do some shopping there occasionally.  Marlene made a good point about not bothering to grow stuff which is cheap to buy....I did wonder whether it's worth growing as many onions as we do, for example.  But I think we will continue, as I use loads of onions in cooking.  Rachel, £76 on stuff you didn't're worse than me!!!  hehe.  It's so easy to do, though, when you haven't got your eye on the ball.

I'm in the throes of dealing with all our produce that's coming thick and fast at the mo.  Yesterday I prepped and froze loads of French beans, I did them in 2-portion packs.  Read a tip somewhere (can't remember where) - when you have a lot of stuff to freeze in portions, rather than using lots of individual plastic bags, wrap the portions in cling film and then put all the wrapped portions in one bag or box - brilliant idea.  10 lots of beans done that way.  I also did 2 large jars of cucumber fridge pickles, using the method that Dawn suggested from the 2 Men and a Little Farm blog - thanks both.

Today it's carrots and raspberries (not both together hehe).  I've got a (bought) large swede, will boil it up together with a load of chopped carrots (OH brought in half a trugful this morning) and then mash it all together, that'll be frozen in portions in plastic boxes.  I buy sets of 8 or 10 oblong plastic boxes with lids for £1 from one of the cheap shops, they stand up well to freezing and can be re-used loads of times before they split.

The raspberries I'll just stew and freeze in portions, we have stewed homegrown soft fruit with Greek yogurt, or porridge in the winter.  Will have a large colander full of tomatoes to deal with tomorrow, so it will be pasta sauce making.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Working out a food budget

Dawn of Doing It For Ourselves has blogged today about her monthly food shop - thanks for that, Dawn. 

I know each of us has different circumstances....there's no way our monthly food budget could ever be around £20, I would struggle with £20 per week.  We have a normal size garden so cannot keep any livestock, which means we have to buy meat and dairy stuff.  We did briefly consider keeping chickens (we have the space for up to 6) but after working out pros and cons we discounted it - there were far more cons than pros.

We are growing as much produce as we can, however, this is only our 3rd year of doing it seriously and we are still on a learning curve, working out what works in our soil/climate/area and what doesn't, what we need more (or less) of, what isn't worth growing in future due to poor yield or too much work involved to grow it.  We are aiming for eating seasonally but also growing enough storable or freezable produce to keep us going all year round, we'll get there eventually, I'm sure.

For the next few weeks I am going to monitor our shopping, seeing how I get on with writing (and keeping to) a shopping list each week and working out if we can go for longer than a week without shopping (better planning, in other words).  I'll keep all receipts and in a few weeks hopefully I'll have a better idea of a monthly shopping figure.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

It works!

Doing a food inventory and menu plan, that is.  A couple of months ago we had a big supermarket delivery of tins and packet stuff, so the larder cupboards are still pretty full (extras we keep in large plastic lidded boxes in the outhouse, erm, utility room).  3 or 4 weeks ago we got a bulk meat order from our local butcher, hence the nearly full freezers, so we really are well stocked up.  So why I let things slide and fell back into the nasty habit of shopping without a list and just buying things willy-nilly, I don't know, there's no excuse except sheer laziness.

Having done the inventory, I sat down and started on a menu plan.  Well, in no time at all I'd come up with 3 weeks' worth of main meals - three weeks!  And that's just using what we have already, with no extra shopping needed.  I could actually have done another couple of weeks (I will do when we're nearing the end of the 3 weeks) as there are several packs of beef mince, chicken thighs, pork steaks and bacon in the freezer.  Lunches are usually cheese, hard boiled eggs or tinned fish with salad, breakfast I rarely eat except maybe some yogurt and berries (our own, out of the freezer) occasionally, OH usually has toast.  We have enough tea and coffee, bought on special offer when I did the big supermarket delivery shop, to last for several months yet.

So for the next 3 or 4 weeks, all I will need to buy will be some dairy stuff, salad leaves (we have plenty of our own tomatoes, cucumber and radishes), and some bananas and pears for OH.  Oh, and bread for husband....I don't make my own anymore since my bread machine packed up, my hands and wrists just aren't strong enough for kneading nowadays.  I did consider buying a new (or second hand) one, but have decided not to as I have a bit of an addiction to homemade bread and eat too much of it!  Supermarket bought bread just doesn't tempt me anymore, thankfully. 

I know some people set a shopping budget....I've never actually done that, I generally have a rough idea of how much I'd like to spend on the weekly shop, although often go over that, and do have a set budget for the bulk meat orders we get.  But now I'm seriously thinking of working out a set shopping budget, probably a monthly figure, taking into account the amount of veg/soft fruit we grow and thus don't need to buy.  However, I do like to take advantage of special offers on dry goods/toiletries etc. that we normally use, and stock up when they're on a really good deal, so maybe I need to set aside an amount for that too.

So that's a plan to work on.  I do want to rein in our spending, as OH will be retiring altogether (he currently works 3 days a week) within the next couple of years, and we need to be ready well in advance for living on a much reduced income.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Menu planning and cutting back on food shop

I really must make the effort today to start menu planning again, got out of the habit of doing it and that's been reflected in our shopping bill.  Our weekly shop cost has been rising recently, and we've bought a few things we didn't need to, as we've found when putting the shopping away and discovering things we'd already got.  Haven't written a shopping list lately either - fatal mistake. 

The freezers are pretty full, we're well stocked up with dry goods and have lots of garden produce, so there's no excuse for blindly shopping without a list or menu plan, ending up buying stuff indiscriminately.

So that's the job for today when OH has gone to work this afternoon - freezer inventory, menu plan (I reckon I could do at least a fortnight's meal plan with what we already have) and reinstate my shopping list of things we actually need.

Friday, 19 August 2016

A quick wave and a 'No Thank you!'

I know I've not posted much lately....seem to have got out of the habit a bit, plus we've been out and about quite a lot recently.  No new to us furniture acquired, nothing crocheted to show.....well, I have a few WIPs but haven't finished anything, it's been too hot and sticky to crochet.  Still on the lookout for a second hand wardrobe for the twin spare room - the trouble is, I'm quite fussy, I have in mind what type of wardrobe I want and haven't yet found one that totally fits the bill.  I'm sure one will turn up eventually.

Recently, I've had a few emails from people with a business or website that they'd like me to promote on my blog.....although they don't come out and say that directly, they write a few flattering words about my blog first.  Well, I'd just like to say to anyone who might have that idea in mind.....Thank you for showing an interest, but no thank you.  This blog is purely my diary, I don't write it for anybody's benefit but my own, I am not going to get into promotions or reviews for anyone else - well, unless it happens to be a review of a product or service that I myself have purchased and not something that I've been asked to review.  Others may well do that, and that's fine, that's their choice, but I'm not going to.  I guess I should put a note on my sidebar saying that.

Thank you for the comments on my last post Food Talk, and welcome to my new follower Simple Living, I'm glad I found your blog.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Food talk

Thank you once again for the comments....interesting to see who grows how many courgette plants.  OH has now pulled up and thrown away half of the plants, it had got almost to the stage of divorce if he kept bringing any more in!  We are now only going to grow two next year, 1 green, 1 yellow....we'll buy them as plants, that way he can't surreptitiously sow/grow any extras!  In answer to Frugal in Essex, we grow them outside, where did you grow yours?  We do like courgette bhajis, thanks for the reminder Dawn...and Scarlet, I guess fritters are much the same thing depending on spices.  I'm going to do a batch of those for the freezer.  We're also not going to bother with the Summer Squash next year.....guess what, they're just like big round yellow courgettes!  And we've got more than a dozen growing on just one plant.....

We've been eating a very low carb diet since Jan/Feb, following the principles of the Blood Sugar Diet by Dr Michael Mosley (I'm diabetic, both of us are overweight).  We both lost around a stone very quickly, then the loss slowed down, and we gradually started eating more carbs (we didn't follow the diet slavishly anyway, OH would never survive on 800 cals daily, not with a physical job).  Both of us have noticed our weights starting to creep up though, and I'm feeling the effects of too many carbs - bloating, sluggish, achey joints.  So we're back to less carbs and eating healthily for the time being.

This morning we had a veggie frittata for breakfast, then tinned salmon and salad for lunch.  For dinner I've made pork, apple and sage burgers, we'll have these with salad leaves and I'll make a chickpea salad.....tinned chickpeas, homegrown chopped tomatoes, cucumber and red onion, with cubed feta and a balsamic/olive oil dressing.

Tomorrow we're having steak and steak half price off the reduced shelf in the supermarket. 

Monday, 1 August 2016

Garden produce

Thanks for the comments on our holiday and garden pics.  Just one pic today:-

Harvested from the garden this morning, had to get out there quick before the rain started.  It's forecast to go on all day, through the night and into tomorrow - the garden is crying out for rain, it's so dry out there, veg and flowers are suffering and the grass is going brown.  We haven't had any significant rain - well, not enough to fill the water butts or do the veggies any good - for weeks.

We are, yet again for another year - inundated with courgettes, we're picking several every day, eating them in some form or other nearly every day, and giving loads away.  I think we have 8 or 9 plants.....when I told OH I wanted just 4, 2 green and 2 yellow.  Sigh.  He does this every year.....I tell him how many I want, he sows 3x as many seeds 'just in case they don't all germinate'.  Well, they nearly always all do, and then he can't bear to throw away any healthy plants and wants to plant them all 'in case any die'.  Well guess what, they never die!  Grrr!  Next year I am insisting on just 3 plants, 1 green and 2 yellow, that's sufficient for our needs.  And if he surreptitiously plants any more and I find them, I will bloody well pull them up!

However, we will grow more peas and French beans next year, I just love them, and they freeze well, unlike courgettes (unless they're cooked in something).

As well as frying, grilling and roasting the courgettes, we have them a lot in frittatas.  I also grate them and use raw in coleslaw or salads, or add to mince dishes.  I did try making the courgette cake a couple of years ago, but it didn't really go down well....even husband (who loves cake) wasn't that keen, nor were the couple of unsuspecting guests I tried it on.  And I have to say the green flecks in it put me off!

If we didn't live so far off the beaten track, I could sell them at the gate, but we don't have any passing traffic!  I think our few neighbours run away now if they see us coming with an armful, tee hee.