School holidays again – which means a lot of shopping. Groan. Since my two teens stay at lycée from Monday to Friday during term time (strikes permitting!), and Rors has four-course school dinners so doesn’t want much in the evenings, I only really have to shop for me and Chris (and the dog – the cats self-cater on the whole). So it’s very noticeable when I’m catering for the kids full-time. It’s not that they’re greedy, simply that they eat a lot!

Bulky bulk buys!

This morning’s shop at Intermarché set us back 168€, and if I’m not back there within the week, I’ll be surprised. (Food prices have been escalating lately, together with – and probably largely because of – fuel prices.) A few of the goodies will last a while. Chris came to push the trolley for me today and he likes to bulk-buy so we got a 5kg sack of rice, 5kg sack of pasta, 5l of cooking oil and a value pack of 120 biscottes. That’ll do for the children nicely for a while! We stocked up on red meat too, since we’ve used up the last of the chain-sawed sheep that Edouard the farmer gave us. Our next big project is fencing so that we can get in some sheep and pigs and be self-sufficient there, like we are with eggs and poultry.

Vegetable wise, we have a way to go. We keep ourselves in pumpkins (whether we want to or not), but didn’t do so well with potatoes last year. The onions and leeks were disappointing too, the birds got to my soft fruit bushes before I did, and Ruadhri ate all the peas (raw) and strawberries. But our super-duper polytunnel should arrive any day now, and we’ll be filling it with salad veg and starting off all the other plants before we put them outdoors. We also need to dig a lot more llama poo into the vegetable plot. It is frankly a wonder product for the soil. A lot of people recommend chicken manure, but I find that smells nasty whereas llama poo is odourless and a lot less squishy. (Apologies to readers of a nervous disposition.) Luckily, we glean so many free blackberries, elderberries, apples, plums and pears each autumn that we enjoy budget fruity puds all year round. The only free food we decline are fancy mushrooms – we don’t feel expert enough in that department to pick anything other than blatantly obvious field mushrooms.

To return to the feeding children issue, the cheapest meals we can feed them are pancakes (own eggs) with ham and cheese; chicken (own – usually cost around 2€ to buy at 5 weeks old at the market) or turkey (these are 6-7€ but grow up to 20kg) with baked pumpkin (own) and potatoes (own or shop bought); Chris’s homemade chips and fritters; pumpkin soup (not massively popular with the younger generation) and anything pasta-based. Our most indulgent mealtime is probably breakfast since we all love our cereals and pains au chocolat but they’re relatively expensive, even own-brand varieties which is all we eat. I occasionally knock out Welsh cakes or omelettes if I’m in domestic goddess mode.

Oops

A final remark about Intermarché. The carpark of the La Châtre branch is an eventful place. Not long ago a lorry got stuck under the low roof of the petrol station there, and today a car had rolled forward from its parking place and hit the back of another one, which was now firmly sandwiched in with a car in front and a car behind it. Some poor person was in for a nasty shock when they came out.

Daily snippets for April 20th

Today’s Saint: Saint Odette who died around 1156. As a young woman she took a vow of chastity, and so when her father tried to marry her off, she cut off her nose to make herself too ugly for anyone to want as a wife. She then became a nun.

Famous French person born on this day: Charles Plumier in 1646, monk and botanist. He identified the fuschia, one of my favourite flowers

Famous French person who died on this day: Jean Carnet in 1994, actor who appeared in more than 200 films

Today’s word: chariot de supermarché – shopping trolley