Category Archives: Self Sufficiency


english-lights In preparation for taking the car back to the UK, I had to undo this little job. Cars don’t have that nice ctrl-z feature you get on computers, but it was a lot quicker the second time around. I must have actually learnt something.

Also, I’d been looking around for somewhere to buy those light deflectors for the French part of the long drive, and was pleasantly surprised to find these still stuck the old lights.

Favourite posts this week

:: Cashew cream and its uses – really not nut fans (except pistachios!) but we are trying.

:: Sweet shirt for a sweet girl. More inspiration for me to sort my sewing out…

:: I’m pretty happy with my current go-to brownie recipe, but olive oil brownies? I need to try this out!

:: We make lentil burgers to have with baby (maybe I’ll share the recipe one day) but mushroom and lentil sounds yummy too.

:: Forget Heinz, think white beans with sausage. Perfect for Autumn/Winter.

:: Cute camping pics coupled with a beautifully honest reflection on marriage. Wow.

:: George and fish – I like the Guardian but he makes a very valid point, let’s hope someone listens. Just ignore the majority of the comments though, urgh. 

:: Aaargh this really upset me  - what are these people thinking? Shameful.

:: Seeing as someone is crawling, standing and doing lots of falling these days (8 months old today!!) we really need this baby-proofing advice!

:: Brussel sprout salad? Worth a try :)

:: Lagom. Cool word, even cooler meaning.

:: 100 Wild Huts – what a fun challenge!

:: Lastly, some dubstep.

Wishing you an awesome weekend!!



Meal planning

Weekly meal planning

Since we have had a baby and moved country, we have had to make many adjustments.

We no longer have two well paying jobs to support us, and now there is an extra (growing!) mouth to feed.

So, what do we do about it? We plan! We make lists! We are strict with ourselves.

I start menu planning by looking through our fridge and cupboards, listing anything that we need to stock up on. This is usually butter.

We then write a mini list of any meals we feel like eating during the week. Anything we need to buy for that meal is added to the shopping list.

I then decide on whether that meal is for lunch, dinner or both, based on whether baby can eat it too – as he only eats with us at lunchtime at the moment.

We don’t decide what each meal will be, but we plan 7 lunches and 7 dinners and make whatever we feel like that day.

This helps us to be really specific when it comes to shopping, to keep our spending as low as possible. We are trying to keep food at €40 per week but aren’t quite there yet.

How do you plan your meals? Do you make shopping lists too?

Any advice on how to keep our costs even lower?



On owning and being owned

We spent most of Sunday sorting out boxes of stuff and getting rid of lots of things.

It reminded me that you cannot own anything without also being owned by the very same thing. Everything is an obligation, a weight and a responsibility; even if it has sentimental value.

We also had a call for some last minute emergency travel in recent weeks, and it was great to be able to pack a rucksack each and jump on a plane with the boy in his carrier. With a laptop and an iPad we can work from pretty much anywhere, and we’re happy to live with very little.

So, while I’m not the first person to say this. I’ll repeat it for my own sake:

The less you own, the more you are free.

Shake out.

Vegetable seeds for the winter garden

Vegetable seeds for winter garden

I’ve never grown winter veg, so this is going to be an experiment.

I’ve gone for the scatter-gun approach and bought a pack of anything that can be sown in September or October.  Including some vegetables I’m famous for hating – though I’m trying to work through my food issues as best I can.

It was also a good way to learn the French names for some of the less common vegetables.

And I must start work on that field soon, or I’ll have no-where to sow these.

Sorting out our tools

Tools for the job, including ‘Golf-club-like hacking device’

The other morning, I got out early to try and clear the aquaponics patch before the heat of the day sent me back indoors. I sharpened up my ‘Golf-club-like hacking device’ (official name is a mystery to me) and stepped outside to thunder and lightning. Now my years of playing golf as a child are very useful for using the ‘Golf-club-like hacking device’, but they also taught me not to swing a metal stick about in a thunderstorm.

So I did the slightly less exciting job of sorting out the tools we dumped here on our last holiday. We have an odd bunch, some are extremely cheap and others much more expensive with nothing much in the mid range. The cheap tools were from the very time we first had a garden and didn’t know what we were doing, and the expensive tools came a year later once we had come to care about working in the garden. The only reason the cheap tools are still in once piece is that they are so horrible to work with they rarely get used. But I can’t bring myself to throw them out, as they might be a useful backup sometime.

I also found a toolbox that always puts a smile on my face. While some of our tools are cheap, and others are expensive, these ones are priceless…

My first toolbox

It’ll be another few years before our boy can start playing with these, but I hope he gets as much pleasure from them as I did. Please note the metal hammer, and the real blade in that plane. I don’t know if toys still come with sharp edges these days so I’ll be looking after these carefully just in case they don’t.

Potential site for aquaponics project

Potential site for aquaponics project

This spot looks like the most likely place for my aquaponics/intensive food production experiment, though I’m still a long way from designing and costing out the system. There is power nearby, and plenty of roof space for harvesting rain water. It’s protected from the wind, and a nice combination of sun and shade (for plants and fish respectively).

I’ll clear it out soon and take some measurements, but the field will come before this, and probably the brick oven too.

Couiza Bio Festival

Festival entrance

Last weekend we visited the (14th!) annual Bio (Organic) festival in Couiza.

We weren’t looking for anything in particular, but were hopeful to see like-minded people and enjoy the surroundings with baby.

Alongside the produce market (fruits, vegetables, honey, bread, cheese, wine, herbs, seeds…) were craftspeople (selling clothes, handmade leather shoes, wicker baskets, tools, pottery, children’s toys), demonstrators, films, lectures and a whole area dedicated to green building/construction.

Bio market

The location was beautiful – stalls set alongside the river Aude – and the weather just perfect.

I especially enjoyed a stall where a lady had recycled children’s clothes into handbags – very creative! The place was full of families who would have probably been interested in the section for clothes swaps. Had we known this was here we would have brought the many clothes baby has now grown out of!

We didn’t stay for too long but I am already looking forward to the next festival when my french will hopefully be considerably better. One of the talks was about the role of the midwife in France – in the UK I was told to have a home birth next time so it would have been useful to listen to that lecture!

Market stalls



The value of homemade bread

My first loaves from the new proofing baskets

While (barely) awake at 5.30am and mixing dough I had a panic about the amount of flour I would get through if I continued baking my current recipe every day. It would be about 7kg per week, costing about 10 Euros.

10 Euros felt like quite a lot, given our weekly food budget is about 35 Euros. So I did a few sums. Slowly.

I’m making 2 x 1kg loaves per day. One of these is for us, and the other goes to the in-laws or other visitors. So to start with I can halve the 10 Euro cost as only half of it comes from our food budget, the other half is a form of rent :)

Next I looked at the bread I could buy with 5 Euros, and a 1kg boule from a decent bakery is about 4.50 Euros. And if I wanted organic bread (the flour I’m using is both local and organic) this would cost even more.

So each day, my costs are about 1.60 Euros (including a little for electricity) and the bread made has a commercial value of about 10 Euros. Over a week, that’s about 11 Euros costs, for roughly 70 Euros value.

In terms of the hands-on time working the bread, this works out something close to minimum wage so an economist would tell me that my hours are better spent earning my wage as a web developer and buying the bread instead.

But the economist doesn’t have useful metrics for pleasure, self-satisfaction, resilience, creativity, learning, the smell of bread baking as you work in the afternoon, or the lessons you teach your children when you show them how to make things with their own hands.

Given the numbers, and the things that don’t have numbers, I think I’m in profit.

Shake out.

This posted has been submitted to Yeast Spotting