Renovating in France on a budget 

Hello Dear Reader,

Today, I’ve given the bedroom walls two coats of white emulsion, sanded the skirting boards and given then two coats of eggshell. Scrubbed down the shower room walls and given them the first coat of paint. My thrifted side tables have had a third coat of paint too. We have painting to finish but it’s all just tidying from now onwards.

We want to get all the major jobs done by the end of the day tomorrow so we can get onto the fun easy parts. There’s snagging to do but a massive day of work has made such a difference. We’re also pleased that we’ve kept costs to an absolute minimum.

DB fitted the balustrade today that he’d previously painted. Everything needs a light sand and a final coat of paint. He has lights to fit, doors to hang and we have to move furniture around and tidy. We’ve got to keep going even though I’m fed up of renovations and just want to go out and visit about five places I’ve got on my list. Fortunately, none of them are going anywhere so I can save the for trips in the future. 

When I look at the photo above, I marvel at everything he’s done: cutthe hole in the floor, customised the stairs to fit, built the stairs, built the wall and built the balustrades. DB – you are a star! I am so proud of you xxx

It’s slow going but we are getting there.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx


Wood heating in France

Hello Dear Reader,

We had our firewood delivered today and the farmer just tipped it by our garden gate which I knew he would. Next, we threw it log by log into our garden no of course it got warmer and warmer. I don’t mind any sort of weather except wind, no one likes that. I’ve a shed full of logs to shlep up the garden, up the steps, round the side, then the back of our house and into our shed where it needs stacking. 

We are surrounded by forests in Brittany and wood is the main source of heating in rural areas. It’s reasonably priced and we bought wood that was cut three years ago, dried and stored in an airy barn. It’s dry and ready to use. I bought over a tonne. 

I enjoy the whole process of heating with wood: it’s prepayment so I can be warm and dry our clothes and not worry about cost, it smells lovely, it’s great exercise and it’s carbon neutral. We had a lovely surprise when the neighbour’s visiting teenage grandchildren came out to help us throw the logs into the garden, how charming. 

It’ll take me a while to move it all over a few days as well as aching muscles but it’ll be worth it to have a well stocked wood shed. I’m off to limber up and then move some wood. 

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

How can I eat out on a budget?

Froogs’ restaurant of choice!

Hello Dear Reader,

I bet that got your attention. You may be, or may have been or know some one who eats out. They think it’s normal. They socialise in pubs or restaurants and meet friends in a pub for a meal. They like to eat out as a treat. Some one else does the cooking and washing up and they have nothing to worry about. Good for them! I choose not to. I save myself a fortune and don’t eat out but remember, this is my choice and I’m in no way suggesting everyone should live like me. I don’t have the budget or the inclination to eat in cafes, pubs or restaurants but if you do, that’s very much your choice.

I’ve eaten out on holiday this year , in the E Le Clerc supermarket in Auray on my way to my holiday accommodation in June and in the long weekend after our marriage when we went to Roscoff and went to a cafe in St Pol de Leon but mostly ate street food. I thought I was very very lucky on the occasions I went out and never see cooking as a chore.

Froogs’ main course

When I did go to a good restaurant this year, I ended up having my money refunded as it was such a miserable experience. As I cook at home, from scratch every day, I know what good food tastes like, how little it costs, how little effort is needed for it to be of good quality and often feel that home made is better than anything we eat out.

Froogs’ dish of the day

I don’t feel as if I’m missing out by not eating out. We tried once to have coffee and a cake in a bookshop cafe in a local town to be given a packet mix cake that was so dry it nearly choked us. A huffing, sighing petulant and underpaid waitress took it away and we were not charged for something we couldn’t eat.

Froogs’ tea room special

As it’s becoming increasingly difficult to eat on a budget, eating out on a budget is ever harder. I sometimes surprise people, not you of course as you know me, when I tell people that I don’t eat out. It’s so far down my list of priorities that I really don’t even consider it.

Froogs’ bakery

So my answer is not to eat out. Stick to a weekly budget. Menu plan to rotate the meals you know you can cook well, quickly and easily. Eat at home with friends. Use your slow cooker to make a casserole, serve with steamed veggies and buttery cous cous for a fraction of eating out. Ask guests to bring a desert or some ice cream to share. Make your own wine from kits or forgaged fruit such as wild damsons. A veggie curry, pilau rice and ask friends to bring a bottle of wine  – a glass each with good conversation is plenty (Thanks for the wine today BTW!).

I often ask people over for mid afternoon tea. I make some scones, serve with home made jam and a pot of tea. It’s a very affordable way of giving people a snack and making them welcome. When I visit friends, I’m made welcome and even if they’ve bought the scones and cake, it’s still cheaper than meeting them in a cafe or tea rooms.

Over to you Dear Reader, do you entertain at home to save money? What’s your ‘special’ or ‘staple’ that you know people will enjoy every time? 

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

When life gives you lemons and limes…..

Hello Dear Reader,

In my last shop I bought five limes for £1 and five lemons for 69p, both from Lidl. I wanted to try making my own lemon and lime marmalade from scratch. It’s no more or less than using the ‘Mamade’ tin of pulp and zest but they don’t make lemon and lime marmalade. I also added an orange to this recipe, simply because we had one left and it could sit there for weeks before we eat it. I used four lemons and five limes, 3lbs of sugar (I use half ordinary and half preserving) and three pints of water.

I started off by using my zester to remove all the zest from all the fruit and that went into my preserving pan with the water. The pith, pips and pulp all go into a muslin (I don’t have that so I improvised with the muslin bag that I strain things with and tied it with a freezer bag tie). I then left that to boil for an hour.

I then let it cool and squeezed and squeezed the bag with the pith and pulp in to get as much of the pectin out as possible. It feels really slippery and slimey and helps the marmalade set. I then added the sugar and got it up to a rolling boil. I let it boil for ages (I don’t time it – google how to make marmalade – that’s what I did) and use a saucer that has been in the freezer to test whether it will set or not. 

Here’s the finished result. Six jars of home made marmalade. It works out at 60p a jar, which isn’t much cheaper than buying it but I still enjoyed making it. There is something reassuringly calming about some stove side pottering on a cold evening.

What have you made from scratch recently that you haven’t made before?

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx