We’ve come a long way together

Hello Dear Reader,

In 2015, we came to Brittany for a late summer break and to look for a house. Our search criteria was simple- on mains drainage, structurally sound and it had to be cheap! We found our house that hadn’t been lived in since the 1980s and no one had even visited since 1998. We wanted not only a holiday home but somewhere we could retire to in ten years time. We also wanted to be able to share it with friends and some have already made the most of it whilst we’re not there. It took a lot of scrubbing, elbow grease, drying out, warming up and plenty of paint but we now have a habitable home from home.

If you know my blog, you’ll know we’ve been on quite a journey to get here and we know we’ve got quite a way to go. We’ve made some brilliant friends here and two in particular who have shared their skills and expertise to advise us with renovations. They know who they are and how much we think of them. I can not even begin to thank them for their kindness.

These are not my flowers but I couldn’t resist taking a photo of them. We’ve done plenty of relaxing, coffee drinking, chatting, garden snoozing, walking and reading. There’s been a good balance of hard work and good fun. Dear flower owners, we’ll see you at Christmas xxcc

We love Huelgoat forest and get into it for frequent walks and had the chance to share it with visiting friends from Cornwall and share our little town. I bang on about the place but it really is a special place to us.

Like the flowers, the harp isn’t mine either! I think the musician had gone for lunch.

As we have people staying in the house in the cooler months, we had logs delivered to keep them warm and now have a great local contact and supplier of split, seasoned and very dry wood. We’re also grateful to the local support we’ve received in finding our way to local services and suppliers. Contacts are really useful in a local community where you find what and who you need by word of mouth. Whenever I’ve asked neighbours about trees, wood, chimneys or stones, they’ve popped inside and come back with a name and number jotted on the back of an old shopping list. 

DB has been amazing and is a one man marvel and keeps learning new skills and is building a lovely home for us and visitors. He builds and I paint and tend the garden. He studies, researches and reads and then builds when he’s not a builder. I’m still in awe.

Almost every evening, we walked around the lake and had some wonderful sunsets. We meander back through the square and up the hill. That hill! It must be doing me good…..mustn’t it?

We also had the joy of discovering some great cycling routes and we’ll bring our bikes over at Christmas. I can just imagine being wrapped up warm and riding along the tow path with frosty grass. I should work for the tourist board but you really should visit Brittany if you like cycling as there are hundreds of miles of trails where you’ll never see a car.


Today, we’ve scrubbed and packed the house away until we come back for Christmas. We’ll be back in Cornwall tomorrow night and it’ll be great to catch up with family again.

We still pinch ourselves that we’ve come this far and we have such a fabulous life. Thinking back to 2009 and the predicament we had to dig ourselves out of, we’ll definitely raise a glass to where we are now. 

Until we’re back at Thrift Cottage,

Love Froogs xxxxx

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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

Pushing on with the thrifty renovations 

Hello Dear Reader,

I have a digital TV recording box for my freesat. I love to watch home Reno and DIY programmes where houses are raised from ruins or built from the ground. Well, I like the beginnings and the ending and the middle bits are boring. Well, right here right now, we’re in the middle boring bit. It’s got to be done and the end results will be worth it. It’ll take a while and at least another year to get our home to gîte standard and a while after that to get it registered and legally up and running. We have a way to go yet but still we must push on. Today, I sanded the stairs and put a stain and sealant on the wood. Each coat will darken the wood.

Here we’re sanding and painting the balustrades for the third floor landing which are easier to paint before we construct them. Tomorrow we’ll build them or try our best to get it done. I’m painting the spare bedroom and today, I did all the cutting in.

I’ve also put another coat of paint on the bedside furniture. When they’re dry and before the final cost, I sand them with fine sandpaper to give them a smooth finish. It’ll all be finished and lovely, just as we’ll be returning to Cornwall. 

We have a massive list of jobs, all of which will be done by to keep the costs low: gravel paths, paint he exterior of the house, tile the bare floors, plant shrubs, build a garden fence. It will all akebtime to save up for and we will do it all eventually.

However long it takes, it will be done on a budget by us.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxx

Feed me I’m tired! 


Hello Dear Reader,

We’ve pushed ourselves hard today and set a deadline for getting this round of renovations complete. We had some pine trees down when we bought the house and the logs have sat in the garden for 18 months. I don’t want to burn them as the resin can damage a flue liner. However, stored for three years in the dry, they are fine and won’t damage a chimney. We offered the ‘green wood’ on Facebook and today, the loveliest couple came with a big van and took it all away. We helped them load their van and found out that they have lots of land where they season wood until they need it. They left us a nice bottle of wine, they have plenty of wood for a few years in the future and our garden is much tidier. It’s always great to meet new people.

As soon as they’d gone, we went back to painting. New plasterboard soaks up paint and it took for coats of paint to get an even finish. We bought Dulux over with us from the UK as French paint is so much more expensive. Tomorrow, I’ll buy some stain to paint the stairs to match the other woodwork in the house. 

We do bits and bobs then get out and about. I’ll do out and about tomorrow and I’m excited about going to Emmaus.

After loads of work, I needed good old fashioned comfort food and made Corned beef hash

To make this:

6 medium potatoes- chopped and boiled until just soft.

3 onions sliced and fried in two tbsp of oil until soft.

1 tin of corned beef, cut into cubes.

Add the cooked potatoes to the pan of fried onions.

Resist the urge to turn, allow it to catch and crash slightly.

Add the chopped corned beef and mix, pat down and continue to cook.

Don’t stir and allow it to crisp.

Cook the top half by placing the pan under a hot grill.

Serve with steamed veggies. Eat, put your feet us and have an early night before all the hard work starts again tomorrow.

We are getting there but soon we’ll have two fully renovated bedrooms, stairs and third floor hallway.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxxx

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

Keeping clean on a budget 

                       

Hello Dear Reader,

Not knowing how to do something does not make someone stupid. People grow up unable to cook, budget, make do and mend, thrift and so on. They are not stupid. There are some experiences that people don’t have until they need to and then they have to learn. No one should ever be condemned, shamed or blamed but some people haven’t had the experience of keeping clean on a minuscule budget. Currently, in the U.K. Families are having to cut back on hygiene as they can’t afford to keep clean. Now, we can add hygiene poverty to, heating poverty, food poverty, water poverty and period poverty.

I’m not referring to issues such as buying cheaper shower gel but not being able to afford to heat water or pay the water bill! People of my age remember the Rayburn, parkray or emmersion heater being cranked up on a Sunday night, pushing the financial boat out to fill and turn on the paraffin heater in the bathroom and that was the weekly bath! The rest of the week was a ‘strip wash’. Younger people, may never have learned these skills.

Hair was washed in the bathroom sink with two ‘fill ups’ for a couple of rinses and that was that. Now, I’m not suggesting anyone relives the 70s and 80s with me as I think people are genuinely cleaner now for a daily shower. However, people are living in desperate times where  food and living costs means they have very little money for personal hygiene.

Here, for what it’s worth are my tips and feel free to ignore them.

Basics – I don’t buy a lot of toiletries and happily use soap bars, shampoo, talc and anti perspirant and I buy those in Poundland. Even cheaper versions would be a litre of bath gel which is no different from shower gel for 50p. I used it for years and topped up shower gel bottles and hand wash pumps. I currently use Vosene shampoo from Poundland but I used to use Tesco everyday basics shampoo that’s 50p a litre. I buy anti perspirant for a Pound and get through a can a week. Lidl and Aldi have really large cans for 79p, that I pick up when I’m there. The only other product I use is Aldi’s moisturiser for £1.69 and that can last me almost a month.

Water costs – I live in the South West Water area and we have the most expensive water in the UK so I’m used to saving water. I have a gas boiler which heats water on demand and have previously owned an electric shower which also heated water on demand. I have the cheapest tariff for gas and electric and I pay by direct debit. I never leave a tap running, I’m used to jumping in a cold shower and not wasting water whilst it warms up and washing head to toe, including my hair in under five minutes and jumping out. Here in France, we have a tiny hot water tank and we still have to have very quick showers so we can get two showers out of one small tanks. 

Short of water and means of heating it. If you have a prepayment meter and you have the lowest of incomes then a shower is not an affordable daily option. Growing up, many of us didn’t have showers and managed to keep clean.


Above, is my bathroom sink (from our previous home, before we downsized) and I kept a bowl in the sink as I used the water to flush the loo. I used to keep a kettle on the landing and use a kettle full of boiling water to warm up a bowl of cold water. 

First, I’d wash my hair and then in the second rinse water, wash myself from top to bottom with a flannel and bar of soap.  I used to put the loo lid down, place the bowl on the floor to finish by washing my feet. Again, the water went down the loo. Three bowlfuls would be the most I’d need, that’s about seven litres of water. I went to work fresh and clean and I used to shower twice a week. 

Now, I shower daily, have enough hot water, enough toiletries but I’m mindful that people are going through tough times. Local foodbanks are grateful for donations of any: toiletries, sanitary protection, laundry products, loo rolls and cleaning products. 

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

Thrifty food for holidays 


Hello Dear Reader,

We know how to live! DB went to Brico Dépôt in Morlaix with a friend today to buy materials for a dividing wall we’re building on the top floor. I stayed behind and cut the hedge at the back of the house.

Lunch was a baked potato with salad and dinner was egg, chips, beans and bread and butter for DB, without the bread for me. 

Even though we’re on holiday, we have meatless days, an ‘on toast’ day or a beans day And just like at home, have something ‘nice’ once a week.

Last night, I made pasties for supper with scones and clotted cream for dessert.


At home, beef flank, or skirt as it’s known is a cheap meat and is used in pasties, here it’s a cut of meat that’s called a bavette steak and it’s cheaper than entrecôte but still expensive. I bought ready made pastry which was surprisingly cheap and made gluten free pastry for me.

They were very popular and one guest ate two, so it must have ok.


Here’s a pasty recipe for you.

Tomorrow, we’ll go on another trip to Brico Dépôt for the rest of the supplies for the wall. Whilst DB is gone, I’ll look after the dogs and get some painting done. 

It’s all go here!

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxxx

A few frugal thoughts 

Hello Dear Reader,

Sunday was my ‘big shop’ day. I know some of you have them and some of you scout round for bargains and know just where and when to shop and get the best prices. I occasionally saunter up to the Co op just before it closes but mostly I plan my shopping and rarely shop spontaneously.

I have a big choice of shops that all offer great prices on my way home from work, near my house and within a few minutes drive. I shop in Bodmin which is the neighbouring town just as the way of a change. Any way, I digress, but back to the frugal thoughts.

I can’t remember the last time I just walked into a shop and picked up what every I liked. Don’t get me wrong, I used to do that in another life but I certainly don’t now. I might have ketchup written on my list but I know when I get there I’m looking for the best value per 100g. If you have a few seconds, then look at the unit prices on the shelf prices. I’m so used to doing that now mental maths has really sharpened, I’m sure it’s as good as brain gym or puzzles. I even look at the back of loo rolls and look at how many square metres I’m getting per roll because sometimes the offers are not great. In most cases, I usually buy one up from the bottom price as that seems to get me the best value.

I’m also really on the ball when it comes to working out portion costs and will use a permanent marker to write on packs when I get home, such as frozen chicken breasts, to work out the unit price and then I can budget each meal. My average price of a main meal is £1 a head sometimes a bit lower or higher.

I also do a monthly shop in specific shops, for example, I can’t find better laundry products for the price anywhere but Lidl (and it’ s on my way home) £2.99 for 40 washes which is 7.5p per wash and the £1.99 2 litre bottle of fabric conditioner gives 66 30ml doses, so a mere 3p per rinse. So, roughly 10p in products to do each wash, I haven’t found anything as cheap or as good as that so far.  I’m like Carol Vorderman walking around shops these days.

Just the other day, we were in Asda and we eyed up the packs of sausages like hungry school children and couldn’t bring ourselves to pay £2.50 for 6 gluten free sausages! I immediately said out loud, I just couldn’t help myself, that’s 40p, or thereabouts per measly sausage! A whole chicken was £3.50 and gluten free………….I bought the chicken! Being thrifty and quick with numbers means I’ll pause before I buy, think of the unit price and often, just walk away as it’s not good value.

Before I go shopping, I do a few things. I check www.mysupermarket.com and make sure I can’t get what I want cheaper else where. If  shop in Asda, I use the price promise feature on their website and enter my receipt and get a refund voucher if I could have bought my groceries cheaper else where. I also use any vouchers that come through my door and use them to shop in Farm foods, conveniently next door to Asda to get 10% off my shopping.

I meant to post this on Sunday, whilst this was still in my mind but here it is today. Unusually, a bit random for me as just a few this and that thrifty thoughts came to mind. You may be at the beginning of your thrifty journey, might be tightening your belt, may have something to save for such as a wedding or a new car and may have a whole load of reason why you need to save money. We are saving for our retirement in nine years and have lots or renovation projects on the go which means with the combination of the two, we have to be super thrifty and make every pound do the work of a fiver.

I’m all shopped until the end of the month. I have a full freezer and pantry and will only need to pick up fresh fruit and veg weekly as I have everything else.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxx

 

 

Save money: good food


Hello Dear Reader,

I’ve just caught up on the TV show where a ‘wasteful’ family are shown as as an extreme example of over spending on food. One family in question spent £250 a week in food including plenty of  takeaways. The family appeared very busy, had slipped into bad habits and would buy food without thinking about what they already had and what they would do with the food they put in the trolley. The end result was food waste. Now, it’s easy to get into bad habits when people are busy.

We’re a busy couple, with full time careers, work to do at home,  dogs to walk and a home to look after so we are not going to be kitchen martyrs and stand in the kitchen every night thinking about what we’re going to eat. I make sure we eat quickly, cheaply and eat the food we enjoy. A little bit of planning now and then, not even every week saves me time, effort and certainly money. 

If I were to work with any of the families on the show, I’d give them the following help.

1. Stock take what you already have.

2. Create menu ideas with what you have. If you’ve a pile of lentils/tinned pears/cheese , then a simple google search of “recipes with lentils” or whatever ingredient you have to give you some ideas of what to do with it.

3. Try and create as many ideas with what you already have.

4. If you have a whole pile of durable, in date food that you think you’re not going to use, bag it up and take it to a food bank collection point. 

5. If you have spare food you don’t think you’ll eat soon, investigate/google how to freeze it. Then use it later.

6. Eat down what you have.

7. Create a main meal menu plan for the week ahead. It doesn’t have to be fancy, you don’t even need to be able to cook. Your meal plan could just say baked potatoes and beans, fish fingers, oven chips and salad, or eggs on toast, just so you have an idea of what you’re going to eat.

8. Plan your lunches, breakfast and snacks. Breakfast here is always toast or cereals, snacks are apples or bananas, lunches are sandwiches, soup, or reheated leftovers. One standard size box of cornflakes feeds both of us breakfast for a week. 

9. When you shop, you’ll also need to buy cleaning products and toiletries, so before you create a list, stock take everything you have.

10. Now you’re ready to create a list. Remember to take it with you and stick to it. A bargain is no use to you if it’s not on the list. 

All of that seems like a massive task but anything you do for the first time is often really difficult. This gets easier as you don’t have a stock of food you’re not going to eat, you’ll know what you have and you’ll have menu plans for the week ahead. Give yourself a break now and then by batch cooking and having food in the freezer for the nights you don’t want to cook. Another time saver is to plan a ‘student food’ night and relive your youth with scrambled eggs or beans on toast or a plain old bacon or sausage sandwich. Of course, home cooking is far more fun but don’t beat yourself up if you’re just not a cook.

It’s easy to think, we don’t have time or planning is too much bother but it will save time and money in the long run.

Until tomorrow,

Love Froogs xxxx

Menu plan for the week ahead 


Hello Dear Reader,

Quick pop in and out today as I’m spending time with family. 

A quick stock check and a rifle through my cookery books and a quick plan. Some can be cooked in advance and added to on the day. Some additions to meals can be prepared in the morning before work and then added to later in the day. Some recipes can be prepared in the slow cooker and finished in the oven.

My menu plan isn’t rigid. I might change it as the mood takes me. I might make double portions and freeze some for another day. I’ve already decided to change Stilton scones to cheddar scones as I have cheddar. All our meals usually have the addition of salad or veggies. There’s always the option of toast for breakfast. Lunch can be leftovers that we can reheat at work.

In case you can’t read my writing.

Roast pork – again, pork is still half the price of beef or lamb.

Pulled pork wraps with barbeque sauce.

Coq au vin, mashed potatoes with leeks and veggies.

Honey and mustard sausages with colcannon

Braised beef topped with cheese scones and veggies

Spicy squash, chickpea and spinach stew with brown rice

Fish pie with veggies

Carbonara 

Breakfast – muesli and yogurt/toast

Lunch – sandwich/banana – leftovers 

I’ll pop recipe up as I cook over the weekend or through the week.

Until tomorrow or later,

Love Froogs xxxx