Friday 27 February 2015

And back to normal...

Well, kind of. It seems to be weird, time passes so slowly but we are gradually getting back to our normal routine! We found out from E., on Wednesday, that she went down with Norovirus on Friday after we had been walking with her on Wednesday. She thinks she picked it up on Thursday! Wow, how lucky were we not to go down with that for the wedding!!

On a cold, dark and blustery winter day, we needed cheering up so I made us some gorgeous yellow spicy sweetcorn soup:
Then for tea we had a low calorie macaroni cheese (gee, glad we only eat in season, these tomatoes were truly awful!):
The rest of it though was very nice.

The sun is out today, for the morning only, so I feel a need to stroll around the gardens, front and back, taking note on how things are doing. Our snowdrops are fully up at last, although not as tall as this variety we found whilst out on a walk:
The miniature daffodils are just 1" tall so a long way for them to go yet. However, one job we need to do in the next week or so is to lay some rocks to help define our inner front circle of plants. We have been given these by E., and have been waiting for both the snowdrops and little daffodils to show where they are so as not to squash them under a rock.

It looks like some of our Spring bulbs will have to be lifted and moved to create way but that is fine, everything was beginning to move outwards and lose it shape as well as infringing on the path area.

That is it for this week folks, batten down the hatches for some very wet and windy weather in the next few days. Have a lovely weekend.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

The wedding breakfast room set up

The side room where seating plan, basket for cards and a lidded basket full of disposable camera's:
As you entered the room, looking towards the top:
The the bottom where we all came in, each guest table had a sheaf of dried wheat on it with the table name, all game bird based:
Top table above with the biggest dried flower display:

Here is the wedding cake - the maker has captured their dogs wonderfully:

Little Miss M on the left, Master L in the middle and Miss S on the right, resting after they have chased through the woods (hence the leaves), sitting by the shotgun! The bottom picture was after the base layer had been eaten during the breakfast and even buffet.

So, what did we have to eat. The sample menu is below, on the day, the main course was a lot more dapper with mini cubes of vegetables rather than the big ones plonked on the plate shown here:

To start - Venison and Parma ham terrine with MiL's home made onion marmalade rather than the pink stuff shown here, olive oil crisps and salad:
Main was duck confit with bubble and squeak, piperade of winter vegetables (tiny cubes!) and a Rosemary au jus - the below sample menu picture looked awful but on the day, it was top restaurant style serving:
Finally the dessert, Passion fruit sorbet and parfait with a white chocolate sauce:
I have now updated the menu tab above to reflect the meals and cost of the meat for the relevant week.

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Welcome and first venue photographs

First of all, welcome to Helen Rosbotham via Bloglovin.

Despite the weather forecast for Friday, we drove down with lovely sunny and light cloud weather. The journey should have taken only 3.5 hours but took nearly 5.5! We were fine until the M25 then eventually it went pear shaped, followed by problems on the M3 and M27.

After signing in to the hotel, we went to DS's future MiL's house for tea and a natter. At one stage we ended up in the house on our own looking after all 5 dogs as MiL ferried the bride and bridesmaids to the hairdressers for a trial hair run then future FiL and DS had to go and rescue one of them as she had a flat tyre on the motorway!

The wedding took place at The Bartley Lodge in Cadnam, herewith some photographs of the bedroom (newly decorated):

After taking DS out to tea, we returned and spent the whole evening chatting and getting to know some of his future relatives as well as catching up with my nephew and his new wife (married last August). They are a rather large family with numerous cousins, who have had the pleasure of all growing up and meeting up at regular occasions so are all very close. Finally went to bed around 1am, again just juice for me.

The weather forecast for the Saturday had not been great but we woke up to this scene from the bedroom window - sorry about the blobs of condensation:
We now had 5 hours to pass so began by walking around the grounds of the hotel - herewith the front:

Then the back - check out that blue sky:

In the grounds were several very tall trees with huge trunks:
 DS standing at the base for size comparison:
That is all for today, more next time:

Monday 23 February 2015

Wedding pictures

You'll have to excuse these evening pictures, trying to take photographs in a darkened room with lots of quick moving people was hard work. The mid-evening excellent band was called Contraband, you can read about them here:
The band for the barn dance was called Rufus Return and were excellent - highly recommended. You can read more about them here:
Herewith the swirling masses:

Again we are not on any of them although I hope we will be on some of the official ones!

We drove home on the Sunday, through 5 hours of driving rain and high winds! We both slept like logs all the night and are at last, beginning to relax. This wonderful wedding has occupied our brains for 18 months or so and now it doesn't - what will we do with our time!

Post wedding

Welcome to A Few Pennies and Frugal in France.

The wedding was splendid, all went as planned and everyone enjoyed themselves immensely, especially during the barn dance. We don't have many pictures of that as normal camera's struggled with the low light levels, but know the official photographer took some before he left at 9pm.

Mind you, we all got better after he left, although some slightly drunk people (men who forgot they were dancing as women to make up the numbers), kept going where the men were supposed to go!
I didn't have any alcohol until the last dance and still had a whale of a time.

We both danced at least 11 barn dances so are now well acquainted with names of moves. I'll add photographs tomorrow as I keep going dizzy and feel a bit spaced out, so am taking things easy as my normally low blood pressure is quite high for me so that might be what it is.

Thursday 19 February 2015

Counting down...

DS and FDiL, get married this Saturday!

We are busy sorting out our final arrangements which have included staying away from people as much as possible to try and avoid catching any bugs:)

Our clothes are sorted, everything is at the hotel, excepting a few things which will go down later.
Guess not much will be posted from now until it is over and we all return to a normal relaxed state of affairs.

Legaleagle, good luck with your special day!

Wish us luck.

Wednesday 18 February 2015


First of all, welcome to Lottie from Bloglovin. We had 7 1/2 pancakes each last night, with either lemon and sugar or Maple syrup. Very nice they were too!

About this time of year, I get desperate for some fresh spring greens. I don't grow (although love) broccoli and such like,  but DB hates them and I cannot eat it all. Last year I tried growing one brussels sprout and a couple of cabbages, inside the fruit cage. It kept them free of pigeons but we watched in amazement, as cabbage white butterflies folded their wings and crept through the mesh!

Solution - sow some salad leaves:
The tub on the left has cress and spring onions in it. The one on the right, broccoli, red sprouts, radish and various lettuces. Hopefully, in a couple of weeks, we shall be able to add the cuttings to either sandwiches or top off some coleslaw.

Whilst we all know that winter is not yet done, the evenings are beginning to stay lighter for longer. March will see the clocks go forward, then we will be on our way. Not wishing time away or anything...

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Front Garden Finished...

First, welcome to Chris Moorwood via here. I'm sorry to say that I have removed anonymous commenting due to an abundance of web crawling idiots hoping to get a free link to their commercial blogs. I only had a few nice anonymous comments, so apologies if you were one of those:(

Finally, I have cut back, trimmed and sorted out the front garden, except any weeds that is, which are beginning to grow!

Hopefully you can spot the difference. The whole circle, path and all 4 sides have now been done. The roses have had well composted manure put around their bases (once the gravel was pulled to one side). After a few weeks, the worms should have dragged it down into the ground and I can put the gravel back.

Passing our garden centre the other day, we went in to get a few potato tubers. We can only grow a very small amount, normally in tubs, but this year, I plan on putting them into one of the raised beds. We should get better potatoes then:
It is an expensive way to buy but we have no-one to share a 3kg/5kg bag with. I shall repeat my exercise this year of spraying them with Disprin to help keep blight away. It seemed to do the trick on the tomatoes last year so we shall see. Mind you, we might not have had blight but think it was in our area.

I have now dug in manure and the potatoes, once chitted, will be planted out in a few weeks time, under some protective cover. Frost in our particular area can be as late as early May.

Monday 16 February 2015

Eat Well For Less final programme

Firstly, for those of you who may have been having difficulty getting to my Menu 2014 page from Menu 2015, I have now sorted out the link so it should take you straight there! I have also updated 2015 with the menu and meat costs from last weeks meals.

This final family were not much better than the one in the second programme, spending just over £17,000 a year on food. I'm presuming here that it is just food as there wasn't any sign of toiletries in the shop that was filmed.

They are described as spontaneous shoppers, shopping up to 5 times a week and spending between £250 and £300 per week in those shops. That is almost more in one month of food shopping than we spend in a year! We only pay another £300 per annum on top of their usual monthly food bill to include all our toiletries etc. They throw away loads of food, including stuff from the freezer that has been in there less than one month "because it doesn't look very nice".

Goodness, give me strength.

Yes, it was sad that their daughter has been ill with leukaemia but to put it bluntly, is that the real reason they shop so badly? Or do they just not know how to shop and that is compounded by her illness and wanting to tempt her. I was astounded to see her put things she fancied in the shopping trolley and they just let it go because ...

It is alright for you I can hear you saying, you are not in the same boat. Our son was seriously ill when he was 3 and ended up in intensive care and yes, we did think he would die. Did it alter our shopping, no it didn't. He was and is still, a well loved chap, we simply loved him more without stuffing him full of whatever he fancied. His eating was off for a few weeks once he recovered and he did have a few food things he liked as treats as he had lost so much weight, but only for a while. After that, it was back to normal healthy eating.

The diet of their children seemed very restricted and we both thought the star chart for trying new food was a good idea but shouldn't they have been eating a bigger variety of food by then. They seemed to live on chips, chicken nuggets and pizza for their main meals.

This week the suggestion of a menu plan didn't appear to materialize. They were encouraged to sit and write a shopping list. How will that help if you don't menu plan or check what you have in the house before you go shopping?

Again, this family were big brand buyers. We do occasionally buy H---z baked beans, but for the most part, now buy supermarkets own brand. I did like the way the nutritionist made two different types of chicken nuggets, one with breadcrumbs and one with crushed cornflakes. Shall be giving that a go!

The presenters thought by making a few changes, they might be able to get their annual food shopping down to £12,000!!!

Friday 13 February 2015

Trialling a different cream cheese...

I suppose under new legislation, I had better say before I start, that this is a product review, off my own back and no payment involved!

We normally buy Philadelphia Light cream cheese with garlic and herbs, but as we have been shopping lately at Aldi or Lidl, thought I would review one of their own brand, Goldesa cream cheese with herbs, which is about 1/2 the price of our normal brand.

I did buy it thinking it would have garlic in it, that will teach me to have my glasses on. Taste wise, it is not bad at all but we miss the garlic.

However, as we normally only add this to mushroom risotto, we don't mind the lack of garlic, as such, it got divided for use later on:
Overnight in the freezer then popped into a freezer bag for use another time:
It occurred to me that you could also do this with butter, then in the hot summer months when it tends to melt, you could simply take how many cubes you want for the next day and they will be ready to use.

Have a lovely weekend everyone!

Thursday 12 February 2015

Harvesting and baking

First of all, welcome to Andy via Bloglovin. My raised vegetable beds are almost cleared now, apart from bed 2, which still has a few leeks in it. A large perspex cover has been put over bed 1 to help warm the soil ready for sowing in a few weeks time. I have still to put a little manure on bed 3.

Bed 4, from which I harvested the last carrots today, will be covered over to stop weed seeds getting in. Covering it helps prevent the wood (which is only 1' thick) from getting too wet. Herewith my little carrot harvest:
They are between 2" and 3" long and in good condition considering they have been in the ground from last July. I always leave some in for harvesting during winter, they don't seem to mind.
Also trialled another soda bread recipe. This time, I added Linseed, Sesame and Poppy seeds, you can certainly taste them. Sometimes soda bread can be a little uncooked in the middle so the dough was divided into 4 and each bit placed close to (but not touching) its neighbour:
We had some with carrot, tomato and lentil soup. They taste even better toasted which is good as soda bread doesn't last as long as normal. Made this type of bread as I had quite a bit of yoghurt and whey to use up.

Wednesday 11 February 2015

Spicy Sausage and Potato

When DS was around 10, I started making this on bonfire night (or as close to it as possible). He was okay with mild to medium spiced things at that age. If you don't like it too hot, miss out the cayenne pepper, it is just as nice without it and still spicy but not hot!

For 2 people you will need:

2 medium potatoes, halved lengthways then cut criss cross patterns on the top of the cut side
4 thick sausages

Into a mug put:
4 tablespoons of tomato ketchup
1/2 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 - 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1/2 level teaspoon salt
1/4 level teaspoon cayenne pepper

Stir together well.

Using an oven pan/tray appropriate size for the numbers you are cooking for, lightly grease it and lay the potatoes and sausages in it and spoon half the spice mixture onto the top of each thing:
Cover with buttered foil and bake for 45 minutes at 200C.

Remove foil, shake everything around and baste with fat if any visible. I found mine had rather frazzled away so changed pans. Top everything with the other half of the sauce:
Bake for another 20 - 30 minutes until potatoes are tender. Serve with vegetables:
I forgot to add the other half of the sauce so we used tomato sauce to serve!

Tuesday 10 February 2015

More Jelly and yoghurt

The little jelly tubs went down well last week for snacks. For the most part, it helped not munch on bread etc. Made some more for this week:
A stoneless prune was snipped into the bottom of each one before they were topped with blackcurrant jelly:
I have been working out how much it costs us to produce a litre of yoghurt.  We use 1 litre of Semi-skimmed milk, 2 tablespoons of dried milk,  plus 1/2 a small tub of live yoghurt which comes to 70p to begin the first one. After that, we use 2-3 tablespoons of the old yoghurt to start off the next batch, plus dried milk (3p) therefore, each subsequent litre then costs just 45p. The electricity used is pennies, depends on your provider.

It is not super thick nor runny, more the consistency of say Angel Delight:
If we want it a little thicker, we scoop some out into a fine sieve and leave it to drain for about 10 minutes. Excess liquid (whey) comes out which helps thickens the yoghurt. The whey is then poured into a jar and stored in the fridge for scone or bread making. Whey continually forms in the container which gets poured into the jar everyday:
The whey is just the end product of the enzymes which have formed the yoghurt in the first place. It is very good for you. You can just stir it back in but we find it makes the yoghurt a little too thin by the end of use, which is why we store it for future use. It will last ages in the fridge in the jar.

If you drain the whole tub through fine muslin sitting in a large sieve, you get loads of whey. The extra thick yoghurt can then be flavoured to make cream cheese!

Monday 9 February 2015

Eat well for less Programme 2

This family spent even more than the last! £18,000 a year on food. By the end, it was estimated they would spend £12,000 a year if they made some of the suggested changes.

£12,000 - good grief!!! On a good day and with the wind in the right direction, we use less than £1550 for us two (including toiletries). Times that by 3 (for her family of 6) and using it for food purchases only, would bring that to £4650 for her family for a year. What is the rest spent on, drinks? for their occasional weekend guests.

Yet again, no menu plan in sight, putting things at random in their trolley, going for top end brands mainly etc. It wasn't as if their children were fussy eaters either. Most of the time they all ate the same thing. Very little cooking going on in a lovely large kitchen, what a waste all round!

The nutritionist lady came up trumps again, showing the amount of sugar in ready made spaghetti sauces (and they were only the tomato and basil ones).

Premium brand (looked like Loyd Grossman judging by the shape) - about 4.5 teaspoonfuls of sugar
Most bought (looked like Dolmio) - 7.5 teaspoonfuls of sugar
Supermarket own brand - 1 teaspoonful of sugar

Blimey, no wonder people are addicted to sugar. They said the supermarket own brand didn't taste as good as the other two but not due to the lack of sugar, more the lack of depth. Well, that can be corrected by a good squidge of tomato purée and a few extra herbs. They could have said that but didn't, leaving me to ponder if they were trying to aim us elsewhere.

The nutritionist then went onto make a rather nice sauce herself using top quality ingredients, see, they really are not aiming it at the rest of us. We make a perfectly lovely (in our humble opinion), tomato sauce using cheapest tinned tomatoes, s & p, herbs, squidge of purée and a bit of garlic. Not a hint of sugar used not even in the can or the tube of tomato purée. Only in summer when we have our own tomatoes would we use fresh ones.

Well, I've said my twopence worth, you might not agree but really, even though we know they are after making a sensationalist programme, I'm sure there are more hard up people around, shopping like this who really needed the help as well as showing how to cook more frugal meals.

Shame on you programme makers (this includes all the daytime and evening slots filled to capacity with chefs, cooks using expensive ingredients), you could/can do so much more:(

Our weekly menu tab has been updated for meals in the 2nd and final week of the food challenge. We amazed ourselves by using just 50p on meat for us both, for the week!

Saturday 7 February 2015

Gardening and freezer stock take

Having looked at the weather forecast, I think the front garden (and hopefully a little bit in the back), should get finished with pruning, cutting back and maybe even some weeding. There are signs of things beginning to poke through and I need to get this done!

Both the outdoor and indoor freezers were checked yesterday as part of creating our menu until the end of the month. We do have 3 large milks in the outdoor freezer, but their numbers get added and changed constantly by hand:

You can see from this, that we still have quite a bit of food or useful standbys, some of which, will disappear during this month. Also note - the 3 boxes of chocolates and the tree decorations from Christmas, are still frozen:)

Have a lovely weekend folks.

Friday 6 February 2015

Gardening, menu planning and shopping!

Yesterday, I managed to spend enough time in the front garden, cutting back and tidying up, to fill my usual 3 trug's full! By limiting myself to 3, it prevents me straining my back etc and also ensures I don't get too cold. As the weather is due to be a huge 2C warmer than last week, I might actually be able to almost finish it!

Our snowdrops are about 1.5" tall at the moment. When we went to the hygienist's this morning, someone had daffodils in full bloom in their garden. Mine are no-where to be seen.

I have menu planned now, to the end of the month, allowing for an away day here and there. Herewith menu:

Sausage meal x 2
Indian mushrooms with beans
Creamy curried mushrooms
Pork and bean cottage pie
toast x3
Mushroom risotto
Fish & chips x 3
Vegetable chilli
Gammon and chicken pie x 2
Courgette pasta 
Bacon and bean risotto
Bratwurst meal

Although we will be finishing the second and final week of our food challenge (£20 per week for 2 people, all meals and snacks), we have enough meals made and frozen or enough in the freezers and cupboards to see us through until then.

We have been out this morning shopping for fresh and pantry staples and spare cupboard top ups. In total, it all came to £40 which means for a full month of food plus toiletries, we have spent just £80, half of what we normally spend so that is a great saving.

Mind you, to get to the end of February, other than the odd bit of fresh fruit and vegetables, no more than £10 - £15 should need to be spent. A few more things will disappear from stores which have been catered for. All in all, a huge saving. It must be Aldi and Lidl prices as this morning we did £20 in each and there was far more in the Lidl bag than Morrison's!

Can't say I would be able to do such tight shopping indefinitely but it just goes to show, menu planning, cooking from scratch making more than one nights worth of food at a time and freezing some, as well as judicial shopping and still being able to keep my store full, makes all the difference.

Thursday 5 February 2015

Now you see it...

First of all, welcome to Lana Brooks and Sarah Ewing via Bloglovin.

When DS came for a few days between Christmas and New Year, he brought his dog Miss M. with him. Trying to give him a lay in, DB was up before me and let her out first thing in the morning. Then I got up to be told she had gone to the toilet in the front room.

Poor her, she was as flat as a pancake when I walked in, bowing down in her misery. I simply said naughty girl. There is no point in shouting at her and telling her off after the event, as she won't know what she is being told off for.

Anyway DB had dried as much up as he could, then we tackled it with some home made spray to try and remove the slight smell, then dried the area again.

A couple of weeks later we noticed this mark appear:
Presumably back up from the underlay although people we know with dogs who have had a wee on the carpet, hadn't seen this sort of mark before:)

Anyway, as we had tried a carpet shampoo spray and it hadn't worked very well, we opted instead to purchase a mini steamer, which does several things that we will need it for, including a carpet spot remover.

I have to admit, we were sceptical but here is the proof:
Much cheaper than getting the carpet cleaned and we now know it works. We sprayed on the steam, scrubbed, dried then repeated. Lovely jubbley! This link shows the one we got from
Here But we got it cheaper than that.

Wednesday 4 February 2015

Vegetable chilli

Half of the roasted vegetables from the other day went into creating a double batch of vegetable chilli. A dried chilli was chopped up then added along with some stock, tinned tomatoes and kidney beans. We had some for tea with rice, then the other half was frozen for use later in the week:
As I am trying to shift 2-3 lbs of weight, we are now going to cut out all sweet treats for a few weeks. Instead, using some individual small silicone cake things, we are dividing up 1 sugar free jelly into 6:
That way, when we are a bit peckish in-between meals, we can either eat one of those or a piece of fruit (which week 2 has allowed for).

Tuesday 3 February 2015

Week 2 meals

Welcome to Jill Williams via Bloglovin.

As I needed to roast loads of vegetables for the chilli as well as towards soup, I rooted around and found the rib bones from the belly pork I bought at Christmas. Once the vegetables were prepared and oiled, they were laid on the top of them to roast to add extra flavour to the soup:
Once roasted, it all looked like this:

The bones went into boiling water to form some stock ready for the vegetable (and pork) soup. Once done they were removed and the stock put through a sieve to catch any little bits of bone. They were then picked clean. There was about 3 tablespoons of meat:

In they went with the remaining vegetables from the chilli to create pork and vegetable soup:
I have updated the menu tab with our first week of meals on the £20 food for two challenge.