Saturday, 27 August 2011

1,000 € for 1,000 km Cycling Challenge - FINISHED!

 This is a direct cut-and-paste from my other blog. So if you've read it there first, you needn't read it again.


HUZZAH for me! I've finished! I've completed my Cycling 1,000 km in 6 months Challenge - with 4 days to go!!! And, rather fittingly, on the day that we hear Richard has been found "Not Guilty" of the drugs charges in Zambia. Unfortunately, he is still charged with stealing his own property (don't ask...) and stands trial for this in October, but we are still Very Pleased that the first hurdle is passed.
Here are three photos.

Here's the odometer reading 1,000.

Here's a happy me. I won't say how many times I took an "at arms' length" photo until I was satisfied that you couldn't see my double chin!!!

and here is where I was when the odometer ticked over from 999 to 1000 (though I should admit that I had pootled about a bit to make sure it happened here! But it did seem properly fitting.) You can see the Trusty Bike propped up.
I don't think I've made the 1,000€ I was hoping for, although various people have promised vague amounts of money "when you've finished" so I may manage to collect a bit more, but I think I've probably collected about 600-700€. Which is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. I'm sure the Chisomo Community SCHOOL will be very happy to use the money to the benefit of the PUPILS.
Now. Will I ever get on the bike again, do you think...? Place your bets, Ladies and Gentlemen, place your bets!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

I must get in the habit...

...of not impulse buying.
I was wandering around the market, having bought today's loaf, and I saw the olive man. Mm, some tapenade wuld be nice with lunch, I thought, and before I knew it, 3,45€ was spent. I suppose it's not a huge deal, but those three euros impulse buys add up fairly quickly, and I am trying to save money. Still, it was delicious tapenade, and it went very well with the roast veggies, hummous and feta we had for lunch. In fact the cold roast veggies are something I've not really thought of having before, but they were really delicious. I will have to remember this and make extra when I prepare them for dinners!

However I did resist buying shoes - they are real leather, look very comfortable, fit my inserts, and only cost 20€. But I DON'T NEED SHOES!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

What happened there?!

So much for reducing costs!
I went to Lidl and got over half the things on my shopping list for just over 50€. I was quite pleased with that, and thought that I'd get the other "bits" in Carrefour for maybe 40€. Hmm. As the cashier cheerfully asked for 70€ I wondered quite where I'd gone wrong! OK I bought a few not-quite-impulse buys (dishwasher cleaner, two bags of jam sugar and a squirty bottle) and I knew that some of the things I bought were going to be expensive ( a chicken, cat biskits -boy! they like the expensive ones!! - and one or two other bits.) but I am still a bit dissappointed that it came to over 120€ Never mind! This is only the start, so I shall try to see what's happening and improve.

There were cheaper chickens, but I didn't quite like the look of them: theplastic wrap was loose, as though it was coming off, and, I don't know, I was just a bit dubious! I couldn't buy any frozen stuff as it's a half an hour drive back home, so I don't feel too confident about things not defrosting (especially in today's temperatures.)

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Changing the Focus of the Blog

As I'm not trying (though maybe I should be!) to lose weight as much as I was, I'm wondering whether to change the focus of the blog a little.  
There's a lot of debate/discussion/angst going on at the moment about the cost of living and families having to budget more. And to be honest, although Mr FD and I have cut down a little on our spending, I think we both still sometimes forget that we're no longer in the 40,000 pounds-a-year salary bracket (shared) that we were, but rather in the 15,000€-a-year salary bracket. A big jump downwards! Admittedly, we no longer have a mortgage, our taxes are lower, and we're not paying for Mr FD's season ticket. But I'm driving a lot to get to work which eats quite a lot of money. Our supermarket bills (for two of us!) are equal to (or sometimes quite a lot bigger) than that of my friend who shops for four, and although I don't think we waste too much food, there is definitely some wastage because I buy the wrong things, or we don't eat them and they go off. For example, there are five wrinkly oranges sitting in the fruit bowl. I don't eat oranges much - TBH I don't eat that much fruit - and Mr FD hasn't eaten them, he's not been here for 5 days and they've just sat there and got smaller, drier and wrinklier. I've not been bothered to do something with them.

That "being bothered" is part of my problem too. I work fairly long hours (but not prohibitively long) and so quite often can't be bothered to try to do extra money saving cooking/preserving stuff. Evenings are for relaxing in front of the TV, not trying to cook up a batch of whatever uses up 5 wrinkly oranges and a piece of fish. But I'm thinking I ned to try to change my outlook a little and make more of an effort to be bothered. Mr FD works from home, and doesn't have too much spare time, but he could be utilised a little more (!) Also, when I do get home early, maybe I shouldn't come straight to the computer, but try to "be bothered " to do something more productive!

Going back to the cost of our supermarket shop, I rarely have a budget particularly in mind. I have my list, I buy the stuff we need (and maybe the odd treat), I get to the checkout and, while I may gulp a bit at the cost, I get out the debit card and pay. And we don't hesitate, if we need to (or want to!) to pop out into the village and buy something we fancy. I've started shopping in Aldi or Lidl for stuff, but then go across the road to Carrefour to get the other things (the more "fancy" ingredients/food) that they don't have in Aldi.I certainly don't have the time to trail around Clermont to find other shops where you can buy lentils and oats en vrac, but I reckon that Aldi/Lidl are a reasonable compromise.  However, we've not really changed our eating habits since moving here and dropping our income. I still buy more expensive cuts of meat, still "need" more expensive ingredients, still cook more extravagant meals. While I don't want to go on a diet of lentils (they have an unfortunate effect on Mr FD) I think I need to reconsider our food intake.

Certain things - however extravagant they may seem - still remain: Mr FD loves his morning fruit salad of pineapple, mango and grapefruit. I like a meusli with lots of fruit and nuts, so I'll add extra.  I won't buy chicken or eggs that aren't at least outdoor reared. If I get the choice, all my meat would be of high animal welfare standards, but in France it's more difficult to know from the labels about the welfare standards. BUT there's a new shop opening in the village in September, selling locally farm reared meat and charcuterie. In these tough economic times I guess opening a shop is a brave thing, and we ought to support local businesses...so I think one of Mr FD's jobs can be meat buying at "Le Panier d'Urfé" It might be a little more expensive than Carrefour/Lidl but it will be helping a new shop.

I have recipe books and folders stuffed with recipes that we enjoy and some of them are labelled "budget". While others are certainly much less than budget! Every week I flick through trying to find something I "fancy" cooking...I vaguely plan the meat content, pasta vs rice vs potatoes, and TRY to not choose anything too pricy, but it's not terribly organised. And I don't think of how I can use one ingredient from one recipe in another - so I'm left, for example, with half a pot of ricotta, and  half a chorizo sausage. Now, I can quite happily use those up, by throwing them in another dish, BUT they're not needed in that other dish, it's just to "use them up" - so instead of becoming the focus of the meal, they are, if not exactly wasted and thrown away, at best used up.

I find sorting out meals quite tedious too, so I often rush the job. Maybe I should, once a month, spend a couple of hours planning for the month ahead, so it's not such a tedious job each week before I go shopping.  Netmums.com has meal planners and advice about planning meals - aimed more at busy mums with children to feed than at busy Fat Dormice with husbands to feed, but still valuable advice nonteheless.

(I'm not sure how many meals I'd get out of that shopping list!)

So, as well as trying to be more organised, more frugal and more sensible with our food shopping and consumption, I'm going to make a bit more effort with this blog. I don't know whether anyone's really reading this, or interested in it, but I'm going to use it, partly at least, to post my menu plans and shopping costs. If nothing else, seeing it in print might help me to pull my shopping socks up a bit more!

At the moment, I'm planning from Wednesday to Wednesday, as that's when I'll be in Roanne to do a big shop. It will change once I'm back working in Clermont, probably to a Monday to Monday shop.
WEDNESDAY
Lunch: Bacon sandwich (Mr FD is bringing home the bacon - literally! - from the UK today)
Dinner: Pommes de terre avec chorizo, cooked with spinach and roasted peppers
THURSDAY:
Lunch: Roast veg (cooked yesterday in the oven) with home made houmous & feta cheese
Dinner:Stuffed peppers (using rice, chorizo, chickpeas & chopped tomatoes)
FRIDAY:
Lunch: Houmous & salad
Dinner:Hot harissa lamb, green salad and cous-cous with chickpeas
SATURDAY:
Lunch: Merguez & onion jam (we need a hearty lunch on Saturday, because of cycling in the afternoon)
Dinner: Puttanesca pasta, & garlic bread
SUNDAY:
Lunch: Pork terrine (cooked on Saturday in the oven with the garlic bread)
Dinner: Roast chicken, roast potatoes, ratatouile (already in freezer), carrots
MONDAY
Lunch: Coronation chicken mix (from yesterday's chicken)
Dinner: Vegetable risotto (but made with chicken stock from yesterday's chicken) - leeks, courgettes, peppers
TUESDAY:
Lunch: Pork terrine (& the rest goes in the freezer)
Dinner: Chicken pasties (from Sunday's chicken) baked beans & courgettes
WEDNESDAY:
Lunch: Smoked salmon paté (made with bits) - & the rest goes in the freezer.
Dinner: Spicy bacon pasta (made with tomato sauce, already in freezer)

I have actually planned three week's worth of food, but I'm not sure how interesting that will be all posted at one time! I'll try to remember to post it each week, plus one of the recipes.
We'll be going "off piste" as it were, now and then, as we have friends coming to stay. Gary's wheat intolerant, so I'll have to think about lunches more carefully as ours are always based around bread.

RECIPE:
 POMMES DE TERRE AU CHORIZO
I love this recipe, because it's really, really easy. For 4 people
800g potatoes           200g chorizo              1 red pepper               frozen spinach, preferably in creme fraiche
1 onion                      4 eggs                       seasoning                

Peel & cut the potatoes into quarters (ish)       
Peel and chop the chorizo into 1/4 (ish) inch slices
Chop the pepper & onion into good sized chunks.
Mix all together with a tbsp of olive oil - if you have chilli oil, so much the better. Season to taste. Put in an oven proof dish. This needs to be quite deep.
Stick in the oven at about 180°C for about 30 minutes until everything is cooked.
Defrost spinach (as much as you fancy) in microwave. When potato mix is cooked, mix the spinach with this.
Make 4 hollows in the mix, and break the eggs into the hollows.
Put back in the oven for about 10 minutes until the eggs have set.
Serve with crusty bread, if desired.

I hope people will comment, or ask for recipes, if they've got this far. Sometimes it gets lonely here in Blogland!!

images taken from Google images





Monday, 15 August 2011

One Very Happy FatDormouse

I am a happy Fat Dormouse on two counts today. Number 1 is that last week I received a little package from the workshop of Susan Faye at 365catladies I won her "Giveaway" of some stickers to go on the back of leters (D'oh! I've just realised I sent a letter to mum today and forgot to put a sticker on the back!) I love Susan's work - so whimsical and cat-based. I'd love to have one of her custom pieces, with George, Milly and Pomme - and maybe a little "angelic" Pumpkin as well. Maybe when we feel a little bit richer! So a big thank you to Susan for my gift. I love it!

The second reason I'm feeling happy is due to the generosity of the Cyclo Club. They collected money for my cycle challenge, and came up with the princely sum of 208€ for me. That is so fantastic! I will really have to bake more cakes in gratitude. I've not done a count up recently, but certainly with this donation, I'm coming close to 600€, and maybe even more. I really must do a proper calculation sometime soon, but for now a huge big dancing Thank YOU! goes to Les Cyclos de St Just En Chevalet.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Fat Dormouse hasn't been getting much thinner...

...for quite some time! I lost my motivation and "mojo" a while back. However, I'm not too bothered, as I've not gained (too much) weight since stopping "being careful". However, as biscuit consumption is creeping up again, I need to take that in hand, I think!

The cycling challenge is still ongoing. I've now completed almost 900 km of the 1,000, and I am rightly proud of that. It's not been too difficult, but it has been a challenge, for all that. Generally, I'm a reluctant cyclist, but once I'm out on the bike I quite enjoy it. I'm happy to stop after about 30 km, however. Mr Fat Dormouse is much keener, and he wants me to "push myself", to do more hills and to go further. He thinks I should finish my 1,000 km with a 50 km ride. Why? I don't want to do a 50 km ride. I'm happy doing between 25 and 35 km per ride; I don't want to go faster/further/higher than last time  - though having said that, I did decide to go over a 14% (I think that's what Mr FD said it was. Is that steep?) climb when I was out last. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and altho I gave up and pushed a bit of the way, and I had to stop to pant a lot every 250m or so, I was really thrilled once I made it.

I don't think I'll quite manage the 1,000€ target, but that's OK. I've got quite a lot to collect from work colleagues and from the Cycle Club, so I'm guessing it'll be about 700€ in all. That's still good news for Chisomo. Let's hope Richard is at liberty to receive the money. He is waiting for the judgement, due on 29th August, and while it is looking slightly more hopeful, due to a new piece of supporting evidence (which may or may not have ben submitted too late to make a difference to the case for the defence) he could still be facing 26 years imprisonment for doing nothing more than helping the very poorest in a poor country, due to greed and corruption of others.

If you are of a praying frame of mind, please continue to pray for him.
Further news may be found (though I make no promises!) over at dormouse.wibsite.com