Packing for France

Hello Dear Reader,

This time tomorrow, we will all be on the ferry. Tonight, we’re packing, getting the laundry done, cleaning, stripping the bed so we can leave the place as we want to find it on our return. We’ve eaten down all the food in the house and the last few bits will come with us so nothing goes to waste. At this time of year, there is no choice but a night ferry and then we’ll wake up in Roscoff and be in our own home by nine in the morning and will have everything unpacked, set up, warmed up and ship shape by lunch time. In the afternoon, I’ll nip off to Carhaix to get some shopping in Lidl and the rest of weekend will be about relaxing. 

I thought I’d share a few more Huelgoat pictures, it’s a lovely place.

The chaos, which is the name given to the rock formation at the mouth of the forest.

From the chaos back to the town.

The public pool which is run by the commune and a fifteen minute walk from home. Open July and August. We only found it a couple of days before we left last summer.

The chapel at the end of our street and we can see it from home.

The camping municipal which is also run by the commune.

From the air, you can see our daily walk right round the lake.

Our house backs onto the forest and I see this view everyday when I walk back from bakers or with the dogs.

The trip isn’t just a jolly, we’ll be working on the house. As usual, we’ll be keeping the costs to a minimum, doing the work ourselves and repurposing secondhand.

I’ll see you on Saturday in Huelgoat.

Until then,

Love Froogs xxxxx


Help yourself to Huelgoat 

Hello Dear Reader,

Thanks for your lovely comments yesterday. If you’re ever passing through Huelgoat or you’re near by, drop in: there’s always tea and cake x

Above, our view from the house.

We walk in the forest or by the lake every day.

Map made of tiles on the bridge over looking the chaos.

Here, my back is to the forest and rocks looking at the lake. Our house is out of shot but in the top left of the photo.

View of the village.

Winter in Huelgoat- if you know the pronunciation, that’s alliterative.

View from the entrance of the forest.

View of a lakeside b&b. I love the reflection in the lake.

View of the sky from our house.

This is the view when we arrive. The shutters keep the house tucked up and safe when we’re not there. 

It’s a hidden part of central Brittany but, if you get the chance, or you’re on the way back to Roscoff to get the ferry to Plymouth then you really should drop by for a visit.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

A year ago this week.

Hello Dear Reader,

We slept under our own roof a year ago and in that time: demolished the faux fireplace and had a working wood stove installed. 

We had the garden cleared. Previously, it was completely over grown with shrubbery as high as the house with a leylandi hedge that overshadowed the street and our garden.

DB built and installed a kitchen.

He built and installed stairs to the third floor after cutting a hole between the floor boards. The gap wasn’t standard and the stair kit was so he had to cut down each stair and riser to fit.

I painted every shutter and window frame.

We painted almost every wall twice.

I learned that French hardwood windows are really heavy but they lift out easily to paint. 

We furnished the downstairs of the house. It still only has just enough furniture to get by but it’s fine for us.

We had fun getting there. We spent lovely days in the sun.

For the first three visits, we camped in the top floor apartment which is now part of the house. We had two double glazed back doors supplied. We went fully glazed, as like most Breton houses, there’s no windows at the back of the house.

We had no kitchen for a while and used an old sideboard as a kitchen unit and we did just fine.

I think it was ok and great fun.

I shlepped four cubic metres of logs from one end of the garden to log shed behind the house.

I’ve eaten my body weight in radishes.

Everything gets cleaned with vinegar in France.

I spent a lot of time sanding and was filthy most days.

There were also wet days when the garden, without a path, we trampled over mud 

It seems like yesterday when DB, myself and Sylvie the estate agent squelched our way through an overgrown garden, climbed through brambles, pushed open the rotten back door and used our imagination to think what it could be like if we brought it back to life.

The house had been uninhabited since the 1980s and no one had turned on a light or a tap for over thirty years. It was cheap, if you’re asking, €44k, £31884, including legal and estate agent fees and we exchanged when a £ would buy you €1.38, we also filled up our French bank account with the renovation funds at the same rate. If you’re here for the first time today, we’ve bought it to be our retirement home and we’ll rent out our Cornish home to supplement our pensions. 

That’s all nine years away, until then we’ll enjoy holidays there.

Come back on Saturday and we’ll share the next stage of our thrifty DIY renovation, French home cooking, little villages and countryside. 

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxxx

Hi, I’m back and I’m hungry!

Hello Dear Reader,

A few medical appointments, some physio with follow up exercises and I’m on the mend. I’ve not really cooked this week, we’ve had ‘on toast’ on in a baked potato or out of a tin. There certainly wasn’t much worth sharing. It’s not been a non-spend week but all spending has been planned and purposeful. We paid for our next ferry trip after Easter, as usual popped our usual amount of money into savings and set a tight budget for the month ahead. 


I’ve shared my ‘meatza’ recipe with you before but here’s another version. 
I used very low fat turkey mince, 400g

Garlic granules, salt and pepper, sprinkle of oregano.

I mixed it altogether and pressed it all into a pie tin, it sort of looks like a big pattie.

I then almost cooked it in the oven set to 180

I then topped it with tomatoes, peppers and onions with a dusting of hard Italian cheese.

I part cooked the onions, tomatoes and peppers first with a spray of light oil. I then measured 40g of the cheese.

It goes a long way when it’s finely grated and as it’s so strong, you don’t need much of it.

I also cooked some garlic mushrooms in the oven. I removed the stalks from four large mushrooms and sprayed them with oil. I cooked them for fifteen minutes and then sprinkled them with a dash of balsamic vinegar and garlic powder and a sprinkle of the cheese out of the 40g

Here’s a close up of my meatza. I miss pizza but the calories are just not worth .

Here’s the final supper, with curly kale and garlic mushrooms. I’m still holding to my promise of having something nice once a week. Nice? It was delicious.

This weekend we’re scrubbing the house, packing all the odds and ends we take to France , such as curtains, paint and a dehumidifier. One day, it’ll just be bikes and walking boots but for now it’s DIY on the cheap and that’s ok.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

Peg leg day

Hello Dear Reader,

I’ve done nothing all day. Totally frustrated as I’ve been unable to do anything useful. It’s nothing to worry about, it’s plantar fasciitis and it flares up occasionally and it will calm down soon enough. I’d love to tell you that I’ve cooked, bargain hunted in charity shops, crafted or looked after the house but I’ve just loafed in pain all day.

I’m alternating between, hot and cold compresses, paracetamol and ibuprofen gel and TV programmes on iplayer.

Normal service will resume as soon as I can stand up without complaining.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs x

Spring clean your family finances

Hello Dear Reader,
I posted this in 2015 and read it again today. No matter where you are on your money saving journey, I still stand by this as a way of checking your finances to ask, “Where can I make some simple tweaks?” There are plenty of really easy way to spring clean your finances and here are just a few options.

Feed your family the thrifty way!

Always check what you have in your house first. Can you create meals from what’s already in the fridge, freezer or store cupboard?
Next create a simple meal plan. Work with your family and children so everyone is involved.

When you’ve taken stock of your cupboards and made a meal plan, use to shop around for the best deals.

Please Freeze! Also make the most of your freezer and save any leftovers!
Power up! Check your energy suppliers and usage.

Simple changes to LED lighting will reduce your electricity bill.
Get the slow cooker out and use that for a few meals a week.

You can cook two meals at once and keep one in the fridge or freezer ready to be microwaved when needed.

 Hang your clothes outside to dry whenever you can, even if only for a while and finish them in the tumble drier.

Shorten your showers by one minute, I promise you won’t notice the difference.

Bright Idea: Use price comparison websites to compare energy suppliers and find the best deals for your area. Switch if you have to.
Make yourself at home and save on essentials.

Check out price comparison sites to compare your phone and broadband. Are you getting the best deal or can you reduce this monthly bill?
Mobile phone tariffs. None of us use all the minutes, texts and download that we pay for. Contact your supplier and renegotiate a cheaper deal. Or, if they can’t offer you anything, give notice and go to another supplier altogether!

Tune in to savings on satellite TV. If you live in a cable area, look at price comparisons to see if you can get a better deal. You could also get a ‘Freesat’ box and enjoy all of the available channels for free!

Hit a savings Home Run: Ensure your Household insurance is right for you. Never just renew your boiler cover, your home and contents cover or accidental damage cover. Always pay for one year only and ensure you check you’re getting the best deal before you renew. Keep paperwork proving your no claims and if you’re a careful householder, look at raising your excess if it’s within your budget so you pay less for the insurance.

Simple Swaps for Super Savings
These won’t hurt at all!
Treat out – If you eat out, cut it back to once a fortnight or once a month.
Take aways – Try the supermarkets Chinese or Indian ready meals. You could fake it altogether and buy frozen battered fish fillets, frozen oven chips and tinned mushy peas. All of a sudden the Friday night fish supper will be a fraction of the cost.

Clever coffee – Can’t do without your coffee? Taking your own coffee to work will save you hundreds of pounds a year. If you do have the occasional coffee out with friends, see it as a treat!

Pack a lunch – even if you just pick up a supermarket meal deal of £3 a day this works out at £730 a year! Why overspend when you can pack a lunch from home and take it with you?

Gym membership – it is time to swap any membership that doesn’t get used. Instead use weekly passes when you have the time or use YouTube and exercise at home. There are hundreds of trainers who want to share their fitness tips with you for free!

Now, that didn’t hurt at all did it?

It’s always great to hear of your financial overhauls and how you keep your finances and budgeting in check.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

Does budgeting make life better?

Hello Dear Reader,

Being a blogger and living as if I were on the Truman show means I open myself to criticism. It goes with the territory. Some people ask: how do you do it? Or, why do you do it? Or ask whether it’s all worth it or how can you live like that? The way we live isn’t for everybody. You see, we live on a tight budget. We choose to do that. We are not hard up, low paid, scrimping because there’s no choice but because we want to live that way.

Living on a budget means we don’t spend without planning and we plan, each day, each week, each month, each year and the next few years of our finances. That means we don’t just up and go on mini-breaks, city breaks or cheap deals on Groupon, not because we don’t want to travel but because they are not part of the immediate plans. We don’t ever just think, ‘I’d like that’ and up and off and buy it. We never hear of a new restaurant locally and think, ‘let’s go off and try that place’. We live, what might seems as a very austere life but it’s purposeful and keeping us on track to have a mortgage free life, with a comfortable retirement and adequate savings to buffer any possible difficulties.

So, what does our budgeting by choice mean day by day? We are, to be honest, complete tightwads and proud of it. We get what we can for free, secondhand or at the lowest available prices. We home cook every day with the exception of twice last year in France. We don’t eat takeaways or ready meals and cook from scratch. We believe that a baked potato and beans is a fantastic meal. Our house isn’t cold but don’t think of sitting around without thick jumpers and some woolly socks. We’re clean and tidy but that’s thank to quick timed showers to save on gas and water. I smell nice when I can get perfume at the giveaway price of free and we stay fresh with toiletries, at low cost, from a budget supermarket. As I said, tightwads and proud of it.

Budgeting in the immediate doesn’t look a lot of fun does it? Budgets are not for the here and now, they are for the long term. We’re in this for the long haul and have make the best of our day to day life in all its simplicity. A home cooked meal, the warmth of our wood stove, a walk in the forest or a snooze in the garden in the summer. Budgeting in the long term means, for us, a house as an investment to rent out to supplement two pensions, a house to live in and in comparison to many, an early retirement. You can have comfort when you’re young or when you’re retired and you’d have had a very blessed life if you could have comfort for both. We’ll take the penny pinching now rather when I’m older thank you very much. 

So, in answer to the question, does budgeting make life better, we believe it does. It might look a bit dusty round the edges to some people but we’re perfectly happy to play the long game.

Over to you, do you get questions asked of your thrifty life?

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxx

Batch cooking 

Hello Dear Reader,

I shall be cooking on quite a tight budget for the rest of the month. Where do I start? First of all, new glasses! I have varifocals and have three prescriptions in one lens for reading, using a computer and distance and they came to £350! That includes an outdoor pair with tinted lens. Next, the pantry was bare! We’ve stocked up for the month and oh my, food is getting ever more expensive. I’ve notice price hikes of, on average, 20% on a lot of products. I’m going to have to rethink some menus and dig up some frugal ideas to stretch the budget.

Now the pantry is full and after today, so is the fridge and freezer for the rest of the week. A couple of cheese, bacon and tomato quiches,

Cottage pie, cauliflower cheese, hunters chicken with homemade BBQ sauce and sausage casserole.

I had some smoked mackerel lurking in the fridge and that’s the recipe I’m going to share today.

2 smoked mackerel fillets with the skin removed and flaked. 

200g soft cheese, I used Lidl’s version of Philadelphia 

Squirt of lemon juice – I always keep a bottle in the fridge.

Heaped dessert spoon of horseradish sauce.

Place in the blender or processor and mix until smooth. You could just keep working with a fork until you get a smooth consistency. 

I ate mine with rice crackers and as you can see, I took a bite and then remembered to take a photo. It works well as a dip with crudités. 

Anyone else get some batch cooking done this week? I’ve got a busy busy week ahead and I need to cut myself some slack. If you batch cook, what’s your ‘go to’? Also, those food price hikes, anyone else noticed a jump? 

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxx

Cooking with polenta

A garden tidy up on a warm spring day, path weeded and garden gate washed. A quick bit of work which needed a tasty supper.

Hello Dear Reader,

It all started with a bag of polenta at the back of the cupboard. 

1 cup of polenta on a plate with some salt, pepper and garlic powder. This made the courgettes crispy and is a good gluten free alternative. 

1 shallow bowl with beaten egg.

2 frozen cod fillets

2 large courgettes cut down into chips.

Set the oven to 200 and have a baking tray ready

Roll both the courgette chips and cod , still frozen, in the egg then the polenta, place on the baking tray and cook for 15-20 minutes. Overcooked fish is dreadful so be careful.

I also made tartare sauce with what I had

8 small gerkins finely diced

Squirt of lemon juice

Heaped teaspoon of Dijon mustard

2 dessert spoons of mayo

2 dessert spoons of natural yogurt – it lightens the calories

Mix together, tasting as you do, you might want more mustard or lemon juice.

I didn’t add capers as I didn’t have any.

We had a lovely evening, with the fire lit in the dining room, good linen and a leisurely supper with some delicious grub. Rough costs, 65p per cod fillet, courgettes 35p each, tartare sauce 25p each, tomatoes 20p for 7 each, polenta 20p -£1.65 per person. 

Over to you Dear Reader, other than making a creamy alternative to mashed potato, what do you do with polenta? Do you use it at all? 

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxx

Rustic, earthy and with kale on the side

Hello Dear Reader,

We’re still trying to fill ourselves up with the good stuff on the cheap. Tonight’s supper was a beef and veggie stew with kale. That was it!

This serves four. We had two portions tonight and two will be for lunch tomorrow.

400g of diced beef

6 shallots, peeled and finely diced.

1 swede, diced into medium sized chunks.

4 large carrots, peeled and in chunks.

2 cups of stock – I use GF knorr stockpot and add boiling water.

3 leeks washed and sliced. 

Heaped tablespoon of whole grain mustard.

2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce.

GF gravy granules to thicken.

Black pepper – I don’t add salt as the stock has salt. 

I used my slow cooked and added all the ingredients in one go, set it to the low setting and left the stew to simmer away for ten hours.

I didn’t add any potatoes but used swede instead. This could be served with brown rice or crusty bread and it goes really well with green vegetables. Any leftovers can be reheated in the microwave or frozen.

Cheap, warm and filling.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx