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Monday, 31 July 2017

Saving Money

One sure way of saving money is to plan your meals, shopping and outgoings. Has anyone been watching that ITV program EAT, SHOP, SAVE.  Each week a family declare what they spend on food which is usually a jaw dropping amount.  One young couple with a toddler spent £50-£60 a week on takeaways alone and had consequently cancelled their wedding because they couldn't afford it. Does that surprise me........ermm NO!

I'm amazed how many people have no idea of their outgoings, food bills or household bills. Until you get to grips with your finances you cannot begin to save. When I saved over £25K in the two years prior to retirement I learnt so much and despite being better off now I still do all the things I did then. And as I'm on 4 month money saving exercise I will be tweaking my finances even more. 

Having re-acquainted myself with the contents of my freezer and store cupboards I  put together a shopping list.  I have been using Iceland so I get my £5 back for £30 (3 x £10) spend. I also admit to spending in Lidl on their 'weekend special offer', I got their  bargain spreadable butter  6x 79p. A few months back I picked up three of their laundry liquid for 89p a bottle. 
79p weekend bargain

With the garden producing so much fresh produce at the moment I am spending very little on vegetables.  After sorting the garden on Friday and Saturday I set a meal plan for the week. My batch cooking session produced 14 meals for 2 people: (home produce or foraged in red)

15 Turkey burgers(3x2meals):Turkey mince, lentils, stock cube,breadcrumbs, egg, onions, garlic, seasoning.
Chicken Supreme(2x2meals): Chicken, mushrooms, onions, garlic, celery, pepper, Sainsbury's mushroom sauce 89p, seasoning. 
Chicken curry (3x2meals): Chicken, curry paste, onions, garlic, courgettes, potatoes, tomato sauce, stock cube. 
Fish Pie(2x2:meals): Bassa, haddock, salmon and mackerel, finely sliced courgette, Sainsbury's dauphinoise sauce 89p, seasoning.
Bolognaise(1x2 meals): 5% steak mince, lentils, onion, garlic, tomato sauce, mushrooms, stock cube, seasoning.
Cottage Pie (2x2 meals): 5% steak mince, lentils, carrots, onion, mushroom, potatoes, celery, stock cube, gravy granules, seasoning, milk/butter. 
Tomato Sauce for Pizza (1x2 meals): tomatoes, onion, garlic, tomato puree and seasoning. 

All the above meals will be served with home grown veg either: French green beans, mushrooms, runner beans, potatoes, sweet corn, beetroot, salad, cucumber courgette, kale and carrots.

Fish Pie 2 large (hubby) and 2 small (me)

Chicken curry & Chicken supreme

Chocolate, caramel shortcake.....YUM
It was a busy session but hubby helped out and we even got some baking done too.  We had a go at millionaire shortcake (Caramel shortbread), not the best of presentations but the taste is divine.  I have made lots of space in the freezer because I used lots and lots of bits and pieces up.  I know there will be meals to go back in but some will be left in the fridge.
More beans and courgettes, can you see the last mushroom
I foraged. A huge steak mushroom with bolognaise and cottage pies. 

Peeled, sliced and blanched ready
to be open frozen and bagged. 
I have also been busy blanching vegetables for the freezer as the runner beans are going crazy, every morning the plants are full of bees.  I must have picked at least 12lb so far and 5lb of French beans. Tonight we will have tortilla pizzas using my tomato sauce, ham, cheese and mushroom. It will be served with a beetroot salad.  A couple of 'meat free meals' each week help both the budget and our health.  These meals tend to be quiche, pizza,  risotto and vegetable/spinach pasta.

I have been very lucky to find a source of large field mushrooms over the last two weeks. Unfortunately the council mowed the grass verge where I found the biggest ones. It was almost an exact ring but I didn't have my phone to hand.  When I went back there was only a couple of broken ones left. Do you forage? Bye for now Tx 

Sunday, 30 July 2017

The Beach Hut

We were very fortunate with the weather on the whole for our beach hut week.  It rained late afternoon on Sunday and Thursday but the evening turned out lovely. The hut was well equipped and even had a porta loo which was a god send with so many young children.  My friend brought her pop up gazeebo and small portable barbeque and we had a couple of lovely evenings with food off the grill.

All the grandchildren came for 6-7 days and they played with out drama . We have the beach hut again for a weekend next month and fingers crossed the weather is kind to us.

The only problem with having the hut for the week is that things at home have been ignored and I've had a mountain of things to do since.  I stripped the bed yesterday and caught up with all the laundry used on the beach. The garden and greenhouse was way overgrown and took almost all day yesterday to sort out. The lower leaves on the tomato plants stripped and all the ripe produce picked. 
Another lot of beetroot picked and prepred,
I've planted the last of the seedlings.

This is the carrots from the small 10 inch pot
 Not a bad little experiment
Trying to get the dehydrator finished so I can do
some  sundried tomatoes.

The lawn was cut and a batch of feed made up for all the plants. All the vegetable harvesting and preparation has meant the compost heap is getting larger.  The compost which is breaking down nicely was turned and mixed, I added some shredded paper and grass cuttings between the layers. of heavier vegetation.  Hubby transplanted one of the butternut squash plants from a tub into the garden, I hope it settles and produces some squash.  Back soon. Tx

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Clever Hubby

I am blessed with a practical clever hubby who can turn his hand to most things. He's made lots of things around the home and garden already.   His one fault would be that he is guilty of  over engineering things.  When I say can you build me a simple box I get asked lots of questions before he starts the job. The box would survive a nuclear holocaust when its finished, hehe!

Back in April I showed him some hanging basket brackets I'd seen on line that you mount over your concrete fence post.  This means they can be moved around and taken down when not in use.  He works in the steel business and went off first making a prototype for sizing.  He then made four because we already had four brackets in the shed and he fixed these to the box section he had designed. The prices vary on line from £15 - £25.99, so I've probably saved £60- £100 easily. I've hooked it over the greenhouse surround so you can see how it works.  Although its rests on the fence top the weight of the basket tilts the bracket slightly so the weight is distributed down the concrete post.  

He has also started to construct my dehydrating box, we are hoping to finish the shelving this week, put in the air vents and  get the Perspex or glass for the top.  I might buy a small solar fan to circulate the warm air inside. It will be painted black inside and out to absorb the heat, then we will be ready to rumble! With the toms coming thick and fast I want to do sundried tomatoes.  The box will also double up as a cold frame as I'm going to by a liner to put in it when use it for plants.

Its quite large which means we should be able to do a fair bit of dehydrating on hot sunny days. All the wood was free and so I got some black plastic fine mesh of for the shelving off eBay cheap. The paint if what's left over from painting out tenants front door. So if we have to pay for the glass it wont be too bad.   Do you have a handy man at home? Are you the handy person? I wish I could saw but I can't. Bye for now. Tx
PS: Just picked up a glass door  off a free page literally around the corner from  a my home so we can crack on and get it finished

Sunday, 23 July 2017

The Great Essex Bake Off

Well the summer holidays have arrived and we have hired a beach hut with friends.  Our families have been invited along as we always feel the more the merrier.  One thing you can be sure of is the constant cries of 'Is there anything to eat'.  

Pre-empting  the situation and the desire to use up bits and pieces in my baking cupboard I had a grand bake up. It took a couple of hours to make the scones, quiche, bakewell cakes and biscuits but the oven was utilised to make our dinner too.  Every thing was cooled and packed in containers. A selection will be put in a large container ready for the beach.  

Scones, quiches, biscuits and cakes
The weather looks fairly changeable but with some garlic sausage and the crab lines the children will be entertained for hours.  By the way garlic sausage is by far the best bait we have ever tried.  No crabs are harmed in the process and they are all returned safely to the water once the final count has taken place and the winner declared. 

lots of small crabs all put back in the sea
We have been at the beach hut for 3 days now and the children are loving it. There are no phones allowed and there is hardly any signal on the beach so its a win, win  situation. They have had to resort to old fashioned fun, rounders, cricket, football, bucket and spades and of course splashing about in the water. We have the hut until Thursday but the weather is looking very changeable but we have been very lucky so far. FUN & LAUGHTER and making memories, this is what summers are made of.  Bye for now. Tx

Friday, 21 July 2017

Keeping Up With Demand

Thank you for all your lovely comments on the last couple of posts. This post was automatically set to publish  while I was sitting on a beach but it didn't. Ho hum!

It was probably very na├»ve of me to think that I could increase  the amount of produce I am growing without  it having an impact on my time. But its saves money and when you are time rich and cash poor you have to go with the flow. When I do my early morning round of the garden harvesting ripe produce I have to think how its gong to be used. The warm wet weather over the last couple of days has increased the harvest of runner beans twofold! So each day I spend at least 40 minutes preparing beans for the freezer.  

Courgettes, cucumber, carrots and beans
Today I have  transplanted some of the beetroot seedlings that were ready which meant making space in the existing beetroot bed So 15  beetroot of assorted sizes were picked and processed. After cooking some were pickled and some left plain to serve with a salad.  
A little put by for those leaner months
The 'bush' tomatoes are ripening quickly and I sorted the ripest ones from those collected over the last few days to make a batch of tomato chilli jam.  I used some of our home grown red onions and frozen chillies from 2015.  

Tomatoes, chillies and onions ready for the Chilli jam
I have harvested more potatoes which should last for  a while.  And I've been thinning the larger carrot containers out by picking baby carrots.  I may have a carrot 'experiment' plant pot reveal soon as I think most of the carrots are a decent size considering they've grown in a 10 inch pot. 

This one is just under a foot long

This one is 4 inches and growing fast

The butternut squash in the greenhouse are growing steadily and I've had to apply a  sling to the largest one already.  Old tights come in very handy.  The squash outside aren't even flowering yet. 

According to the internet I have a record breaking sweetcorn plant because it has 5 ears of corn on one plant, another has 4. The little beards had turned brown so I decided to have a look  and picked 3 of them.  Two were good and one under developed but I can still use it in a tor fry. So out of the five plants I have I could potentially have 20 ears of corn! WOW. Bye for now. Tx

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Being Extra Frugal

I need to put some money back into my savings account, as we've had a list of things we needed to buy for our tenant and the account has taken a real battering. So my first job yesterday morning was to familiarise myself with my cupboards, fridge and freezer.  While the garden is producing well, a lot of meals can be subsidised with produce from the garden.  Almost everyday I'm  getting beetroot, tomatoes, beans, potatoes and salad produce. It won't be long before I can harvest carrots, kale and sweetcorn. 

In the fridge I found some out of date Emmental cheese that was going a little dry, as I won't be baking until the end of the week so I put the slices of cheese in the Nutri bullet and pressed the button.  Less than 20 seconds later there was a lovely fine crumb, that I've put into a tub in the freezer. 
In the bottom of the fridge were 2 cucumbers, 2 courgettes, mushrooms and some cooked beetroot.  I peeled the cucumber, deseeded and chopped it up. The beetroot was chopped and the two ingredients mixed together with a little mayo, balsamic vinegar and seasoned. This will be served with the chicken & mushroom, spaghetti, courgetti dish I've made.  

Today we had curry and rice, the curry is out of the freezer. I really need to utilise what I have in the freezer as much as possible. There is plenty of meat in there to serve with produce from the garden.  

Spending needs to be an absolute minimum for the foreseeable so I decided to take advantage of the Iceland promotion that I received in the post yesterday. The deal is spend £10 in-store 3 times between 17th July & 20th August making sure to present your bonus card,  £5 will be loaded onto your card automatically on the 26th August. You must spend the £5  between the 26th August and 10th September.  I spent £11.11 yesterday but really need to stick to the £10 as much as possible, I'm keeping the receipts and promotional paperwork together just in case. We have a hired a beach hut with friends for a week starting Friday so there are a few bits on there that we can take with us. Iceland have also started doing Warburtons 50-50 bread for 59p which is a good price and the grandchildren will eat this.  We had the tail end of a storm early hours of the morning, lots of lightening then one huge clap of thunder and a bit of rain but not as much as I expected.  Poor Cornwall they always seem to get the flash floods. At least no one was hurt and work is already underway to make sure the forthcoming  holiday season goes ahead as planned. Bye for now Tx

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Birthday Celebrations and a trip to the seaside

The weekend
English jam tarts.  Baked them when I was ten using leftover pastry.

We had been invited to a friends 50th Birthday afternoon tea.  There was lots of Pimms, tea, cake, savoury buffet and everything was delicious.  One 'sweet'  I fell in love with was a jam tart but not your average jam tart,  it was a jam tart with a hidden secret.  The secret was marzipan there was a piece of marzipan under the jam that had obviously melted into the pastry and it was gorgeous, something I will be trying in the future. Simple yet so yummy. 

We said goodbye to my brother in-law on Sunday morning. He left at 10 and was making a stop off to visit other family before completing his journey back to Wales arriving safe and sound at 6 that evening. Our friends arrived just as we were waving him goodbye and we jumped in their car and headed for Leigh on Sea. It took just under an hour to get there and we parked at the station and took a stroll down onto the shoreline where the fishmongers and cockle sheds can be found. Leigh is very muddy when the  tide is out and it was low tide. We walked up into the town and had a look in a couple of shops. The properties near the seafront are beautiful huge 'mock Tudor' semi's and detached properties. I had a quick look at Rightmove and a house like this would cost approx £1 million

After a couple of hours we went along to coast a short distance to Southend on Sea. We had some food in the town and had a mooch around before heading home. We managed to cram in one garden centre on the way back to look at their 'Summer Houses' as my friend and daughter are both after one for their gardens. Strangely enough they have both decided they'd like a corner one and I dare say we will be help out when they arrive. 

They are rather lovely and you can upgrade the wall thickness to 48mm, have double glazed windows, shingle roof etc Do you have a summer house? What do you use it for? They are rather lovely. Bye for now Tx

Monday, 17 July 2017

Mango Chutney and Stuff

Hi, thanks for all your comments on my last post.  I had a hectic weekend I'll tell you more about that tomorrow. But for now I better tell you about the mango chutney I made  a week ago but never got round to posting about it!

After managing to get hold of some cheap mangos  on the market I set about making mango chutney. Its something we both love with curry and I had most of the spices etc so it didn't mean having to go out and buy loads of things.  I used this recipe as it gave you options for substituting ingredients. 

Makes: 1 litre (approximately)
  • 2 large apples - peeled, cored and grated
  • 3 mangoes - peeled, stones removed and chopped
  • 300g granulated sugar
  • 2 brown onions, chopped
  • 125ml vinegar (  I used white wine vinegar as its sweeter)
  • 3 tablespoons grated root ginger
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 dessertspoon mustard powder (I used ground mustar seed & whole seeds)
  • 1 dessertspoon chilli powder or crushed chilli flakes (I used cayenne & chilli flakes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 

  • Prep:15min  ›  Cook:30min  ›  Ready in:45min 
    1. In a large large stainless steel saucepan over high heat, combine the apples, mangoes, sugar, onions, vinegar and ginger. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Allow to simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes, until the fruit is tender.
    2. Add lemon juice, mustard powder, chilli powder and salt. Continue to simmer for 5 more minutes.
    3. Spoon into hot sterilised jars and seal.


    You can try using curry powder in place of the chilli powder. You can also use Cayenne pepper instead of chilli powder and mustard seeds.

While I was squeezing the lemon a pip dropped out and I had to take a closer look, as it was already split and a green leaf visible. I popped it in some compost and lets hope I have a lemon tree next year!

Its just starting to break the surface of the compost.  As for the leek seed experiment, I gave up and put the wet seeds in some compost and hope they grow.   Have you grown a citrus plant from seed? Did it survive? Back soon. Tx

Friday, 14 July 2017

Goodness its FRIDAY!

Thank you all for your lovely comments I love hearing from you.  I think the general consensus  of opinion is that time seems to be flying and I fear its true as its already Friday!

I knew this week was going to be hectic as I had arranged to visit an ex colleague who is in hospital  with a brain tumour on Tuesday. There is still no update as to whether its operable so its a wait and see situation. She was in good spirits and we had a candid conversation and a little bit of a giggle too.

We also planned maintenance on our rental property.  Its in our best interest to keep on top of jobs because if we ever had the need to sell it could be done swiftly.  The house is an end terraced 3 bedroomed new build with cloakroom and drive for 3 cars.  The tenants have been in there for the last 4 years and little jobs have been carried out from time to time. Wednesday saw us moving 2 tons of soil from the back garden as the wood on the raised bed had deteriorated and become dangerous.   We have kept four large bags of soil for our own garden  and  someone we knew wanted the rest as it was good top soil. The job was straight forward, once levelled  grass seed was applied and a tarpaulin to protect it for a few days.  My SiL has some special sheets that we are borrowing. Yesterday I helped hubby put another support behind the bath panel as it keeps moving allowing water to get trapped and end up staining  the kitchen ceiling. A painter is currently painting the front door, porch supports, kitchen, bathroom and fence panels, so it should all be looking tiptop by Monday. 

By the time I got some spare time in my own garden I found myself having to harvest lots of things that were ready. I picked runner beans, green beans, lettuce, cucumber,  tomatoes and beetroot. I'll need more potatoes at the weekend but I'm leaving them in the ground until I need them.  Furthermore, the latest lot of decent rain we had might add a few extra grams in weight. 

My brother in law arrived from Wales  at 7:30 last evening on this.
A BMW something or another! He will  spend a couple of days with us although we have a busy weekend planned.  So hubby is spending time with him today and they've gone off to buy a new pair of biker boots and I'm home alone. bliss.  Hubby always had motorbikes but he started getting really bad neck pain from the force and decided to sell his bike '2000 Bandit' and not buy another.

Have you owned a motor bike? What do you have planned for the weekend? Bye for now Tx

Monday, 10 July 2017

Monday Again!

Where are the weeks going to? I thought time passed quickly when I was at work but now I'm retired I'm finding the weeks are rushing by at break neck speed. We spent the weekend with family and friends. My youngest daughter held a fantastic barbeque on Saturday and I probably ate a little too much. Sunday was spent at Alton water with friends.  It was very hot but we found some shade behind a tree and there was a little bit of a breeze late morning  then grew steadily throughout the afternoon.  Once again we had rain forecast from 9am this morning but nothing has happened so far. We are desperate for it on the gardens  but also to break this muggy atmosphere. 

I've been picking beans both dwarf green beans and runner every day since Thursday. Two lots have gone in the freezer and one used.  I did dig up another lot of potatoes but the ants have been at them however once scrapped they're fine. Everyday I'm getting 10 or so raspberries which we have with yoghurt.  They will be pruned even harder this year. 

Tomatoes are ripening quickly now but I'm not pleased with the plants. They are not my normal variety and have grown very stumpy but are laden with fruit.  Once the toms are ripe they drop off! Not sure that's right but too late now

20 inches high and full of tomatoes

Tomatoes drop off when ripe!

The beetroot seedlings are all looking healthy and the carrots have already broken the surface of the pot.  I have potted up the remaining carrot seed sprouts and they will go into the garden next week when they are strong enough.  The leek seeds are still not sprouting, I'll leave them a little longer and then just put them into compost and see what happens.  
Carrots in the pot 2 trays of beetroot

My shopping bills will start to really decrease now I've got so much ripening. In fact I think apart from dairy produce I could stay away from the shops for a while.  (I do have one more coupon to use, more on that tomorrow)   I can make a complete salad now. I have potatoes and vegetables to accompany most meals. There will be more beetroot to lift at the weekend if I get a chance, I've got a really hectic week ahead of me.  I made a quick chicken curry this morning using up some of the small onions and potatoes I lifted, as well as the courgettes that are coming quickly now. I hope you had a lovely weekend. Back soon. Tx

PS: The pitter-patter I heard on the conservatory roof  a moment ago has just turned into a torrential down pour then back to pitter-patter. According to the media we are in for a roasting hot August but we'll just have to wait and see!

Friday, 7 July 2017

Seed Progress (3) and Pickling

I'm getting used to my new laptop but it has taken forever to set up. I was seething last night as the windows 10 update took 4hours to download.  Then today the free McAfee security wouldn't load and it took a phone call and lots of trying to persuade me to part with some money before I said 'what does Free mean?' because the subscription that came with the laptop is for one year free, so no money will exchange hands until this time next year! If the problems continue with this laptop it will be returned to the shop! It took me another 45 minutes to load the drivers for the wireless printer.

Anyway back to the seeds. The beetroot sprouts that were put into compost yesterday have already broken the surface and looking really healthy.  The carrot seeds were ready to transplant into compost.  I decided to use a 10 inch pot.  There is a guy I watch on YouTube HGV (Home Grown Veg) that grows  a huge selection of things in 10 inch pots.  I already have a pot I did about  6 weeks ago and its brilliant. The rest of the sprouting carrot seeds will be put into a seed tray with compost and when they're large enough they'll go into the garden.
Beetroot leaves after less than 24 hours

Lots of  carrot seeds sprouting

A 10" pot I sowed 6 weeks ago
earlier and the one I did today

Sown circa 6 weeks ago and you can see the carrots

Still not much progress with the leek seeds but I won't abandon hope just yet.  'Sods Law' as it was the leeks that I really wanted to 'bring on' quicker. 

There were 3 large cucumbers ready so the other evening I peeled them, one half was sliced on my mandolin and the other half was cubed. Both lots were sprinkled with salt, covered with cling film and placed in the fridge overnight.  Every time I opened the fridge I agitated them a little so that the salt solution was evenly spread.  The next day I threw away the liquid that the salt had drawn out of the cucumber and rinsed them thoroughly.  I left them to dry a little while I was sterilising the jars.

Cucumber sprinkled with salt
Cubed and sliced cucumber pickle
I made some spiced vinegar with mustard seeds and chilli, once the jars were packed with the cucumber the vinegar was poured over the contents. The jars were tapped gently to get rid of air. They've been stored in a dark cupboard and will be ready to in next month.  I managed to get hold of some lovely large ripe mangos at the market today (3 for £1)so I'm just about to make some Mango Chutney. Its all go here! Have a great weekend.  Bye for now. Tx

PS: We have not had one drop of rain and the heat has been unbearable at times, this afternoon it was 26 and muggy. Rain forecast for Monday......YES PLEASE.