Where growing, making & good living come together

What’s in your store cupboard/pantry?

Posted by on Thursday 3 November 2011 in meta | 12 comments

(I realise I am a contrary soul – pushing the GET RID OF STUFF NOW!! agenda on one hand and then in this post, advocating stocking up but I think food and household goods are a little different…)

One of my “to-do before winter” jobs is to make sure our store cupboard is stocked up on essentials for us and the animals in case the weather is bad and we’re too lazy to go to the shops in the snow/ice. The obvious next question for me is “what do we consider store-cupboard essentials?”.

I’ll start with the animals as they’re easier: Lily-dog is pretty easy to deal with as she gets 2x15kg bags of biscuits delivered every three months or so. I think she’s got just over a bag left so I’ll order another twin pack in the next couple of weeks and she’ll be fine. The cats need dry food/biscuits (from the supermarket) and canned food (which we currently order online as we’re trying a slightly specialist type to stop the STINKIEST POOP EVER) – we’ll buy at least double the normal quantity (or more if the dry is on offer) next time we do an order/shop. The cats also need some cat litter (since they’re old & lazy) so we’ll make sure we’ve got some extra bags in store too. The chickens need layers pellets – a 20kg lasts us nearly a month and we’ve got just over a bag at the moment — we should get another couple this month. (All the animals get treats as well, but they’re not essentials. Possibly the only thing in the “treat” category that it would be worth stocking up on is chew bones for Lily as they’re good to clean her teeth and she chews sticks otherwise.)

For us, for the kitchen stuff, there is a difference between absolute so-we-don’t-die essentials and things we to give us a reasonably normal, decent, varied diet. I think the latter is more relevant to us as chances are any problems (or laziness) will only last a few days/a week at moment – and if we don’t need them, we’re more likely to use them in the regular run of things. So I’ll consider our food store-cupboard essentials to be: rice (basmati & risotto), various canned/dried pulses (min: chickpeas, kidney beans, pinto beans, red lentils, brown lentils), pasta (spaghetti & some sort of smaller shape), canned tomatoes, tomato puree, tuna, sweetcorn, olives (for eating & for cooking), jars of pickled veg (such as beetroot & chillis), flour (a couple of different sorts for bread & baking), dried yeast, onions, pureed ginger & garlic (we buy big tubs of it), dried herbs & spices (min: chilli, cumin seeds, ground coriander seeds, oregano, basil, mustard seeds, bay leaves), stock cubes/bouillon powder, cooking oil, worchestershire sauce, cereal/porridge (although both would generally need access to milk – possibly get some UHT/rice milk just in case), CHOCOLATE, tea, coffee and sugar, and in the fridge, some sort of cured/smoked sausage (such as chorizo or kabanos) and some parmesan-ish cheese. Assuming short term snow days/being lazy, we’ll obviously have our existing homemade chutney/jam collection, eggs, meat, vegetables and other assorted goodies in the cupboards/freezer to keep us going but I’m going to make sure we have decent supplies of at least the stuff listed above.

Other stuff: bottled drinking water in case we have pipes burst like last year which result in longer water outage, toilet paper, (homemade) soap, painkillers and other basic medication (particularly cold-related stuff), and matches (for lighting the wood burning stoves).

I’m hoping that we’ve already got most of this stuff in store as part of our usual supplies (which are at their peak right now anyway as we did a once-every-six-weeks supermarket run on Monday) but if not, I’ve at least now got a checklist/shopping list to work through.

What’s on your store cupboard/supplies list? Is there anything major that I’ve missed?

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November mini-goals

Posted by on Wednesday 2 November 2011 in goals | 1 comment

I’ve got some mighty “mini” goals this month!

1. Declutter November
The Decluttering in November challenge I’ve been mentioning repeatedly – between the every day challenge and the mini-challenges, I’m going to get rid of 50 pieces of junk from around our home/garden in the next 30 days. John’s doing it too so we’ll hopefully have 100 less things by the end of the month – but more importantly, hopefully we’ll both be more conscious of how clutter grows and stays here!

2. NaNoWriMo
I’m taking part in NaNoWriMo – (Inter)National Novel Writing Month – this year for the first time. I’ve been meaning to do it for a few years but managed to forget the kickoff each time before now. This year though, I’m onboard and I’ve got to write 50,000 in 30 days. (A standard non-genre novel is around 80,000-100,000 words, so it’s shorter than normal but the point is to bang something out, sod the quality, then expand/refine it later.) If anyone else is doing it and wants to be my writing buddy, I’m louisa_

3. Finish making one of the two crochet tops I’m currently working on
I have the attention span of a fruit fly when it comes crafts. I am determined to finish one of the tops this month though – I’m cold, I need the woolly layer ASAP!

4. Do all the winter preparations ‘to-do’s
A long list! I’ve already done a few but need to do the others before winter properly sets in.

5. Batch cook another 2x2servings of meals for the freezer
I liked having this mini-goal last month so want to do it again. The freezer is currently full of meat from our recent Swillington Farm delivery but once we start making some progress through that, I want more homemade ready meals added to our stash.

6. Make bacon
All the cool kids have been doing it recently and we’ve got some pork that would be perfect for a little curing transformation. Plus, it’ll help free up some room in the freezer for that batch cooking – by storing the meat in our tummies :)

Have you got any particular aims or to-dos for this month?

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October 2011 – end of month review

Posted by on Monday 31 October 2011 in chickens, less than 12 clothes challenge, meta | 0 comments

Carla-cat enjoying a spot of autumn sun – the woodstore is perfectly place for sunbathing felines: in the sun until nearly 2pm but also within a short stroll of their food dishes. Purrfecto!

Goals in 2011 progress

moving swiftly on!

October mini-goals

I achieved more of these than my main goals – the accounts are finished (just waiting for John’s business accounts now then new mortgage a go go!), we finally finished the bathroom and we both batch cooked for the freezer – “ready meals” of pasta sauce, keema curry, enchiladas and spicy beef casserole (with corn bread) now await us! I also got some fabric for the cushion in the porch and found somewhere for the foam – just hesitating now about whether a soft cushion is right for there, or whether a can-put-your-foot-up-on-it wipeclean option would be better.

I think I would have achieved more on these & on my main goals if I hadn’t been distracted by other fun pursuits – crocheting and writing (the latter planning for my NaNoWriMo attempt, which starts tomorrow!).

Buy less than 12 items of clothing in 2011

Bloomin’ heck, I’m getting close! I’ve been on the look out for a nicer-than-my-scruffy-hoodies jacket all year and spotted a lovely M&S brown cord jacket in fab condition in a charity shop for £5.99 so bought it even though it’s close to being too cold to wear it. I’ve worn it loads over the last few weeks. I also bought yet another pair of jeans off eBay. They take me up to eleven things so far in 2011, eep, close!

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This year’s winter preparations

Posted by on Monday 17 October 2011 in meta | 7 comments

Yesterday I picked up my crochet hook for the first time in six? seven? months. I can’t stand the feeling of yarn between my fingers during the summer, and the early warm spring this year meant my crochet embargo started earlier than normal this year. Yesterday though, I found my favourite bamboo hook and grabbed a misc selection of DK yarn to crochet a stripey draught excluding snake. Flames flickering behind the stove glass, cats liberally applied around my lap/feet and yarn in my fingers — forget autumn, winter feels like it’s already here for Team Peach.

Due to meh-ness and illness in September, I’m a bit behind on my winter preparations – still a few things to do before the season really sets in. Some people are saying it’s going to be as bad as last year, some people are saying it’s going to be worse and start earlier. I have no idea but I’d rather prepare just in case.

Us & the animals

1. Wash all our winter coats, scarfs & gloves I’m really kicking myself that I forgot to do them during that heatwave week last month, when I washed absolutely everything else in the house made from fabric. My coats (my everyday winter coat and my really big heavy one) might have to be dry-cleaned, I’m not sure. I hate dry-cleaning for many reasons but if I get another year or so out of the old coats, it’ll be worth it.

2. Check we have sufficient quantities of warm socks etc I think we do, and John tells me his vests (which nearly all predate our nearly 10 year relationship) are fine too – worth checking though. I might get a pair of long johns/leggings for under my jeans for dog walking rather than just wearing tights (I hate tights).

3. Make a giant bean bag for the office So the spoilt, spoilt cats & dog can sit near the stove in comfort ;)

4. Make sure we have good supplies of our store cupboard essentials & animal food Supplies being cut off further upstream is always possible in bad weather but a more likely issue is us being too lazy/cold to fancy going to the shops.


I wrote a list of house “to-do”s before last winter and while big renovation things have taken a LOT longer to do than I thought (and some not happened at all), we did most of the things on my list. Most recently, we’ve replaced our old falling down single-glazed sun-porch so it’s now less draughty, better insulated & not leaking — it’ll now provide a really useful “air lock” for the front door to stop lots of cold air shooting around the house.

1. Curtains for bedroom One thing from last year’s list that I still haven’t done. We don’t use curtains in the bedroom for most of the year – it faces east into a wood so isn’t overlooked and the morning sun is lovely – but really need decent ones in the winter for heat retention.

2. Check if the thicker duvet needs washing & if so, wash We’ve got an “all seasons” duvet (a thin duvet & a thicker one that click together to make an uber-one). The thin one is still warm enough for now but won’t be for much longer.

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Your favourite fiction books with simple living characters/themes?

Posted by on Wednesday 12 October 2011 in meta | 19 comments

I’m having a bit of a book week here on The Really Good Life – and on Recycle This too.

Following on from yesterday’s favourite non-fiction simple living books, I thought I’d do a run down of my favourite fiction books with simple living themes – either characters who live simple lives, or who grow or make or cook real food — but I can’t think of many. So instead, I’ll tell you the few I like and then I’m going to beg, on my knees beg, for your suggestions!

(I asked this question on UK Veg Gardeners nearly a year ago and most people suggested non-fiction-with-a-narrative books that are meant to be read curled up in an armchair in winter rather than a reference text — I do like those too but in this case, I’d prefer out and out fiction suggestions if possible.)

Ok, so here are my few:

  • Drop City by TC Boyle – this one certainly won’t be for everyone as it’s half about hippies, with their free love & LSD, but the other half is about life in the Alaskan bush and it’s fascinating. I now have a collection of non-fiction books about life in Alaska to read whenever I finish Drop City because I don’t want to leave that world.
  • Giants in the Earth by Ole Edvart Rolvaag – I was hesitant to include this one because I didn’t love-love-love it but it was very interesting – the experiences of some Norwegian settlers “going West” in the 1870s and their subsequent hard life as homesteaders. Apparently it’s core reading on many high school or college syllabuses in the US but it’s pretty much unheard of in the UK.
  • Various post-apocalyptic speculative fiction – my guilty genre fiction pleasure — you can keep your vampires and your spaceships, I like reading about our world coming to an end ;) It might seem odd to include it on this but when humanity is all but destroyed and there is no one to delivery take-out pizza or make new ipods, people quickly fall back to simple-style living. Even if the books don’t go into lots of explicit detail about it, it’s there – and I think it’s the bit that really fascinates me, and gets my cogs working in a “what if I was in that situation?” way. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham is one of my favourite books full stop and for this sort of thing – slowly rebuilding a farm for the group’s survival, and also a lot of discussion about how society should be rebuilt. The third part of Wyndham’s The Kraken Wakes deals with global warming-like flooding. John Christopher’s The Death of Grass is mostly about a journey but one happening because of the … death of grass (so no wheat etc or grazing land for animals) – it makes me want to run out and grow potatoes!

…And that’s it, that’s all I can muster — so please, please, please have you got any suggestions I can add to my to-read pile? This winter might be another long, cold one so I need plenty of fireside entertainment :)

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October mini-goals

Posted by on Monday 3 October 2011 in goals | 2 comments

After meh-ness and illness in September, I’m keen to get achieving again in October. I’m thinking of even having a proper scheduled week off work too – it’ll be my first full proper non-ill week off since last October and like I did last year, I’ll hopefully tick some things off my annual goal list before it’s too late!

  • 1. Design & make a (wooden) laundry hamper to fit the exact space available in the bedroom
  • 2. Make a cushion for the new shoe bench in the porch (broken into sub-parts so I can tick off as I go!)
    1. measure & buy foam to size or research & source a filling alternative
    2. source fabric
    3. put together into a cushion
  • 3. Do the final-final-final snagging in the bathroom. It’s about two hours work but I can’t get motivated to do it. We started renovating the bathroom on the last day of February. I think it’s about time it was finished once and for all!
  • 4. Get my company accounts & personal tax stuff for 2010-2011 finalised, signed off and paid. (This is mostly a work thing but on here because a. I really need to do them so I can pay the tax before the start of January deadline & avoid a fine and b. we want to change our mortgage on our house before the end of the year too, which should save us a lot of money in the long run.)
  • 5. Batch cook at least two (x two servings) meals for the freezer — and John will probably make the same amount. We rather depleted our homemade ready meals supply while I was ill so it’ll be good to build it back up again.

And not exactly a simple living goal but something John & I are doing:

  • 6. Draw a self-portrait, and a portrait of the other person, every day.

Do you have any mini goals for this month?

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