Poverty-it could happen to any of us- just ask Jack

There is one area of life I think we can all agree on. We all spend too much money on food.

Is it the supermarket’s fault? I’m not sure but there is just so much choice out there that it is so easy to stray off your shopping list a little and end up going a lot over your planned budget.

Coupled with this, the price of food has rocketed. The Consumer Pricing Index which is run annually but the Office for National Statistics just highlights how much things have increased in price.

As a farmer’s wife, I suppose I see this from both sides of the coin-both the producer and the consumer and, despite being vegetarian, when I see the price of lamb in the shops, I am glad I don’t have to buy it for my family.


I recently joined a Facebook group called something like Feeding your Family on a Budget. It really opened my eyes that the group was split between those, like me, who wanted to save a few pounds and shave a bit off their weekly shop and, sadly, those who really did have to feed their family on a very small budget.

 Personally, I usually think about the homeless when I think of things like food banks and soup kitchens.

 However now in our sixth year of economic downturn, some of that period in recession, the face of poverty has changed.

 While the ubiquitous person lying under a cardboard box still exists, it is the hidden poor who are really struggling.

Families are some of the worst affected. Couples who earn just over the threshold of benefits but only manage to pay their bills with their wages are widespread.

Even today on the BBC news  website there was an article that said a third of UK adults struggle to buy healthy food.

According to Oxfam, one in five people in the UK are living in poverty – and government spending cuts, along with the rising cost of living, are hitting those at the bottom hardest.

Over a third of the population now say that they are just one large heating bill or one broken washing machine away from hardship. Many are finding it difficult to heat their homes or buy essential clothing. Most shockingly, the number of people in the UK that are going hungry is growing.

Sir Michael Marmot, a health inequality expert at University College London says that this has a huge impact on health, social mobility and even life chances: “In the most deprived part of the Westminster, life expectancy for men is 17 years shorter than in the richest part of the borough. That’s how big the health inequalities are in the UK,” he says.

One of the people affected by such abject food poverty is Jack Monroe.

Jack, who blogs at http://agirlcalledjack.com/ found herself on the wrong end of a cash-strapped single mum living in Southend. When she found herself with a shopping budget of just £10 a week to feed herself and her young son, she turned her hand to being creative and resourseful with food and started blogging about it.

But when her blog, A Girl Called Jack, which detailed the thrifty meals she cooked, gained in popularity, Monroe went from being a penniless single-mum to being dubbed the ‘poster girl for austerity’ by newspapers across the world.

I found Jack later than most people when she got chosen by Sainsburys to help promote their ‘Live Well For Less’ initiative.

While her recipes amazed me, what impressed me most is that with a better wage coming in from her blog and her Sainsburys deal, she didn’t abandon her frugality. Indeed, I have read articles where she admits she still shops and cooks on a budget.

However instead of relaxing and feeling glad that she was out of her terrible situation, she started, what can only be described as a one woman campaign to show politicians and society the real face of poverty and fight for them. She even supports and promotes Oxfam and Child Poverty Action as well as Fairtrade.


Now recently, Jack released her first cook book, named after her blog, A Girl Called Jack.

It is packed full of recipes for families to make on a budget.

While I will be trying out some of these recipes to help save me a few pounds off my weekly shop, it is important to remember that in this day and age, poverty can happen to any of us. We can all lose our jobs in a heartbeat.

Next time you see a box in your local supermarket asking for donations to a food bank, put something in. I always buy cereal and UHT milk because I can’t stand the thought of children in my local community going to school without breakfast.

Put yourselves in their shoes. How would you feel?

A Girl Called Jack is published by Penguin and costs £12.99.

The lovely people at Penguin sent me a review copy so, in the spirit of charity, I am giving it away to one lucky reader of Farmer’s Wife and Mummy. Enter with the rafflecopter below.

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Chocolate Victoria Sponge

Easter may traditionally involved making a Simnel Cake but, with a choc-mad toddler (and Hubster), in our house, chocolate was the only option.

I went for a chocolate Victoria sponge (all in one method) as I didn’t have much time. Many recipes tell you to mix cocoa powder with a bit of warm water before adding it to the cake mixture but I find this makes your cake with too little chocolate and comes out a pale brown colour-not chocolately at all.

So here is what you will need:

8oz Self-raising flour

8oz caster sugar

8 oz butter or butter equivalent  Stork etc

 2014-03-07 17.10.16

4 large eggs

50g of cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

To decorate

6oz butter

12oz icing sugar

4 oz cocoa powder

Drop of milk

Chocolate eggs

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Grease and line two 8-inch sandwich tins. I use frylight now and don’t bother lining but you can.


This is the easy bit. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk, starting slowly and then increasing the speed until it is all combined.

Divide the mixture between the two trays and bake in oven for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, swap the cakes around so they cook evenly and bake for another 10 minutes. For fan assisted ovens, reduce the heat and do keep checking as every oven is different.

Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then turn out.

While it is cooling, put the butter, icing sugar and cocoa powder in the bowl and whisk them together until smooth. If it is dry, I add a drop of milk.

As it was Easter, I piped a bit of yellow icing around the cake and added mini chocolate eggs but you could pipe chocolate coloured icing around it and add a decoration of your choice. Buttons work well or Maltesers.

choc cake

Enjoy. Cake never lasts long in our house.

This bake of the week is part of a link up with other bloggers at Casa Costello. Last week I made a Nutty Banoffee Fairtrade cake.

Casa Costello

Enlightening findings in my 3-year old’s handbag

Recently, I saw a blog post called ‘what’s in my changing bag.’ I am also aware of ‘what’s in my handbag’ posts so I have been thinking about this and what I can do. We are just about past changing bags and, to be honest, even I don’t know what’s in my handbag and the thought of emptying it out for the world to see fills me with horror. So…I found a cunning alternative.

minnie bag

The Easter Bunny brought Boo a new handbag. A lovely pink, spotty, Minnie Mouse number.

As any young lady should, she had a ‘clear out’ of her old bag which basically involved her transferring everything to the new bag.

old bag

So after a very long bedtime (due to the prolific amount of chocolate consumed today), I did the unthinkable.

I looked in her bag.

Now, if she was 15, I think she would have grounds to be angry at me (although I think I would be going through it then for totally different reasons).

At three, I think she will forgive me.

What an eye opener though. This is what I found:


A plastic lipstick, a hair bobble, a bunny ring off a cake-with a bit of icing still attached.

Some crayons and a set of plastic car keys, all pretty normal so far. Even the 2p, little doll and toy car were what I would consider ordinary for a three year old.

Then it got interesting.

The magnetic letters are stolen from nursery. I discovered them in her coat pocket on the last day before the Easter holidays and I meant to remove them and return them next term. I obviously forgot all about them and they found their way into her little bag.

She has a bit of a history with ‘borrowing items’ from shops. She took a figure from our local toy shop which I had to sheepishly return and then two pencil erasers from the newsagents which I also took back.

If we are out and about on the farm, Hubster always makes me check her pockets if we’ve been near machinery or hardware. So funny. Then who can forget the car keys incident which I had to take a holiday from work. (Familiarise yourself with it here-it is worth it just for a laugh)

The other weird find was a blood-glucose monitor. I had gestational diabetes with Boo so this has been lying around for a while but the little love thinks it is phone and calls it her ‘bine’ which I think stems from the word mobile.

If we lose the ‘bine,’ it is a nightmare. Similar to my previous choc post, chants of bine, bine, bine can be heard a fair distance away.

She has toy mobile phones and a couple of our old phones to play with but nothing compares to this, the original bine.

I once did a post about finding things under furniture and that was amusing enough but the handbag enlightenment made me chuckle in what has been a trying day due to the 5.30am start and the sugar overload-how ironic with the bine.

What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever found in your child’s pocket or bag?

Our new playhouse

In our house, we don’t do chocolate for Easter. I think Boo gets enough chocolatey eggs off other people (also see http://farmerswifeandmummy.com/?p=1369) and I always got a gift rather than chocolate off my parents.

As Boo is a winter baby, outdoor, summer toys always seem pointless as a birthday present when snow is usually on the ground so Easter is the perfect excuse to give a toy that will bring hours of fun through the summer months.


Last year she received a wheel barrow off the Easter Bunny. She loves it and can often be seen wheeling it around the farm yard.

I have been thinking about a playhouse for some time but I have been torn between buying a plastic one or a wooden one.

There are pros and cons for both. I have been researching it for ages and even tweeted my question to gauge the reactions of other parents out there.

After a lot of consideration, we opted for the plastic variety. While many parents may groan at this, for us it was the best option.

For one, living on a farm, we have to have outdoor toys  that can be thoroughly wiped clean. Also, with a busy hubster and me doing all the mothering and house side of things, I don’t realistically have time to schedule a re-paint of a wooden playhouse every year or so.

Likewise, as we are right in the middle of lambing, there was no way Hubstrer could have sacrificed a day of his life to put together a wooden play house.

I am not making excuses. I am actually very pleased with our plastic option despite my previous plastic-aphobia (http://farmerswifeandmummy.com/?p=734)

My research has revealed that you can spend little or lots on playhouses. Some ‘big brand’ plastic varieties can cost upwards of £300 while wooden ones can cost in excess of £1200.

easy to put together

Now farmers are renowned for their tightness so when I found this Toys R Us beauty for £49.99, it had to appeal to Hubster’s generous side right?


When I compared the £1500 variety, his hand went straight in his pocket.

PicMonkey Collage

Do you now what? It is lovely. There is a little hole in the bottom which can be used as a cat flap. I say ‘can be used’ because in our house it is used as a dog flap. Boo couldn’t wait to get into it-even before the roof was on.

There is even a letter box.

It just goes to show that you can spend hundreds so of pounds on things for your children but sometimes they love cheaper options just as much.

right decision

I am so pleased with our play house and it was really easy to put together.

So easy, there is even the option to take it down for winter. I think we will just put it in a barn but the option is there.

I highly recommend the meadow xottahe


Word of the Week: Choc

The word of the week this time is:




Note it is choc not chocolate.

Boo loves choc what child doesn’t I suppose?

With Hubster still busy lambing it has been a hard week with no break for mummy. The hardest thing I find when it is like this is cooking our evening meal. Boo wants entertaining all the time while I am trying to cook.

When Hubster is not busy he usually takes her upstairs to the lounge but as he can’t she is with me. Fair enough the little mite is hungry and ready for her dinner but as we all know, toddlers are not the best creatures at waiting.

So as soon as I put a pan on the hob, the choc-chant begins.

“Muuuuuuuuuuuum, choc.”

“It’s nearly tea-time” is just not good enough for a three-year-old who knows what she wants and she wants it NOW.

It escalated during the preparing of Sunday dinner last week. I had already got off to a bad start by forgetting to take the meat out of the freezer. So pork chops, roast potatoes and veg were on the menu but, with the prolonged choc-chant which, followed by a firm ‘no’ from me (65 times), a tantrum of epic proportions ensued and…..I managed to burn the whole dinner. Yes, even the roast potatoes.

How this happened I still can’t fathom but it did. It was inedible.

So I hot footed into the village. The chippy was shut which left the pizza place.

So, not only did I have to pay for take-away food, I still had the dishes to do from my inedible Sunday dinner.

PicMonkey Collage

So, from that day, I prepared myself. I bought Bourbon biscuits. They’re a chocolatey colour so, when apples got rejected (they lasted two nights) when I was cooking, I brandished the bourbons and, instead of aying “have a biscuit,” I said, “hear have this choc”.

It’s worked so far.

While I agree in terms of mother-failures, a biscuit before tea is not ideal, at least it keeps Little Miss Boo happy and, most importantly, I don’t burn the dinner.

It being Easter weekend, I suppose it is appropriate to have choc as my word of the week but, really? I don’t know how to move on from what I can only describe as a choc-phase where this is the only thing that will make her happy.


The Reading Residence

Let’s track our steps with a Ozeri Digital Pocket 3D Pedometer

I thought I walked quote a lot each day.

We have a quirky three story old house with loads of stairs and I run after a lively three-year-old most days.

PicMonkey Collage

So when I was sent an Ozeri 4x3motion Digital Pocket 3D Pedometer I quite smugly thought, this will just show me what I already know-I walk a long way each day.

How wrong I was.

The first day I strapped it on, I became a little obsessed looking at it. I had it hanging around my neck so it was easy to keep slipping it out and having a sneaky peak.

It was really easy to set up, you really just had to work out how big each of your steps were when you walk.

At the end of the first day, I was quite pleased with myself- 5947 steps.

Then I Googled what was the recommended steps a person should walk each day.

What an eye opener.

According to the NHS, the average person walks between 3,000 and 4,000 steps per day, and 1,000 steps is the equivalent of around 10 minutes of brisk walking.

So I was only just above average.

As part of the NHS Livewell initiative, they are challenging people to 10,000 steps a day. They say that research shows that walking 10,000 steps a day will significantly improve your health. Putting one foot in front of the other can build stamina, burn excess calories and give you a healthier heart.

They share tips such as walk part of your journey to work and use the stairs instead of the lift.

Now I am never one to shy away from a challenge so I began really thinking about my daily routine.


At the supermarket for example, I use the baby and toddler parking spaces which are nearly always situated near the entrance of the store. Unlike disabled spaces which need to be near the entrance, baby and toddler spaces are purely to give parents extra room to open doors to get children in and out of bulky car seats.

I discovered that if I parked at the far end of the car park, not only did I have to walk further, there was no one parked there so I had more room to open the door to get Boo out anyway.

On the two days  am at work, I parked at a car park a little further out of the city. Not only was it cheaper, I walked more so my pocket and my waistline benefited.

I’ve made a conscious effort to go for a walk every day with Boo-it is beneficial to us both. If it has rained, we’ve gone out with hoods up, umbrellas and Wellington boots.

The best readings I had on the  Ozeri 4x3motion Digital Pocket 3D Pedometer were when I went running. One day I had over 15,000 steps on there. I felt like some little streamers and whistles should have come out of it to congratulate me. I had to be thankful with a self-pat on the back but I was still pleased.

It is really a good idea to get a pedometre because, like me, I believe many people believe they are doing enough walking as part of their everyday routines when actually they are not.

I highly recommend the  Ozeri 4x3motion Digital Pocket 3D Pedometer.

It records steps, distance, speed, calories and time with the world’s most advanced Tri-Axis technology. There are three recording modes: today, split and total — with a split screen display for multi-data views.

It uses 3D Tri-Axis Sensor (X, Y, Z plane detection) provides superior accuracy in any position, counting up to one million steps with seven-day memory so you can look back t what you have achieved.

It includes a built-in clock, calendar and sports timer and, is apparently used by professional athletes

Let’s all make a conscious effort to get moving more.



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Easter Crafts-Egg people

eggs 1

So this week we are getting into our Easter crafts. I saw a brilliant photo on Pinterest of eggs with eyes and little plants growing out of them.

I thought it looked amazing so we had to have a go.

With loads of chickens, we always have loads of eggs so to find something to do with the shells was a great thing to me.

I bought plain wooden egg cups and some eye stickers from Baker Ross and began to hatch my little plan.

egg 2

There were six in the box so I thought Boo and I could have three each. Boo could just get creative and so what she likes and I would have a go at funny faces.

I opted for a bikini lady egg head, a tuxedo man with a mouchtashe and a yellow chick one for Easter and in homage to the creatures who had made our craft possible.

egg 3

Boo had a great time painting. To be honest, so did I.

I think maybe I should have used eggshell from boiled eggs as they were fragile and Boo broke two of hers.

I will have to look into that. Maybe you should coat them with something first.

So here they are.

eggs finished

I’ve put chives and cress in them so hopefully we will get hair-just like the ones on the picture.

We really enjoyed our eggy craft day.

Creative Challenge

Mini Creations

Mini Creations

Frozen-my secret obsession


I’ve got a bit of a confession to make.

You know how parents up and down the country are moaning because their children are asking to watch Disney’s Frozen film over and over again?

Well I’m moaning because Boo would still rather watch Peppa Pig.

Now don’t get me wrong, I also love a bit of Peppa but really? In comparison to the lovely Elsa and Anna?

I have had Frozen on whilst cooking meals, getting dressed-even snuggled up on the sofa on a rainy afternoon but I still get the little oinks from Boo and a remote control brandished in my face in a manner that would, quite frankly, show up even a double-crossing love cheat like Prince Hans Westerguard of the Southern Isles  (I know, I know, I need help).

The only amusement Boo gets from the most amazing film I’ve ever seen the latest Disney classic is laughing when I sing Let it Go at full pelt while swirling around like a Disney Princess.

Thankfully she is still at an age when she thinks Mummy’s voice is better than anyones. I am aware this won’t last so I am milking my one-woman show for as long as I can.

I won’t give up.


I am determined that Boo will inherit my love of Disney and I will go to extreme lenghts to achieve this.

I wonder if playing Let it Go subliminally would be classed as child cruelty….

Let the storm rage on….



Our Easter tree

It seems a lot of people have started decorating their homes for Easter. Not quite as much as Christmas but still with a tree as the centre piece.

I bought an Easter tree when it was Boo’s first Easter. I suppose I was celebrating new life myself and got swept up in the Spring-like feeling.

photo 1

For Christians, Easter is more than just about chocolate so I was a bit uneasy putting up the Easter tree before Good Friday as it seemed wrong but then I argued with myself that it seemed pointless to have it up for only one day.

This is Boo’s third Easter so we make a big deal of putting the tree up and decorating it with little chicks, rabbits and eggs.

I got my tree from The Contemporary Home. It was three years ago though so I checked to see if they still do it. They don’t do exactly the same one but there are some really lovely Gisela Graham offerings there.

Our small decorations were from Paperchase and they still have similar in stores now. Paperchase always have delightful Sprung and Easter decorations.

photo 2

Boo loved helping to dress the tree. It is just the right size for a little girl. I often think Christmas trees can be a bit overwhelming for children.

To be honest, anyone who has been near our living room has been invited to ‘see’ the Easter tree and, if she is quiet, I can guarantee she is there rearranging the ornaments.

We added a set of battery operated lights this year which I think made it look even more special.

photo 3

I have also got some Easter hanging plaques which I picked up from the Pound Shop. I hung one off the beam in our living room and one off our bi-fold doors.


Embrace Spring this year and celebrate the new life that Easter symbolises. There’s more to it than chocolate.





Sleep easy with Web-Blinds

Any parent of babies or young children can vouch for the fact that sleep becomes a luxury.

So when I found out that Web-blinds, part of the Hilarys Blinds family, had come up with a sleep challenge to help people get more, I jumped at the chance to find out more.

Around one in three adult Britons struggle to get the necessary amount of shut-eye leaving them feeling grumpy, irritable, unable to concentrate, depressed and in extreme cases at risk of serious health problems.

In our house, it is also used as a bargaining tool. I’ll do that if you let me lie in in the morning. I got up 98 times last night so surely I’m owed an hour this afternoon-that kind of thing.

So apparently, sleep cycles last 90 minutes and we pass through five or six of them every night.

Waking up mid-cycle can be when the problems of grumpiness occur-so that’s my excuse.

When the clocks spring forward, it is an epic problem with parents because it is still light at your children’s bed time.

One year, I seriously contemplated bricking up the window-surely this would make Boo go to sleep and stay there for at least 11 hours?

At the old house we had black-out linings on our curtains but, unfortunately gaps of light can escape at the top, bottom and sides of curtains-even with a black out lining.

I had to do something.

So a blackout roller blind was the only option. With both the blind and the curtain, the room was much darker.

I would like to tell you that the blind was the answer to my prayers and that we enjoy lie-ins until at least 8am every morning.

Life with a toddler is not so cut and dry. While the blinds stop the light coming in, they don’t stop Boo’s little eyes fluttering open.

The lovely people at Web-Blinds offered me a blackout blind for either my or Boo’s bedroom.

I had already bought Boo’s blind (it was the first priority when we moved to the farm-a measure of how obsessed with sleep I am) and, in our quirky farmhouse, the window in our room is only tiny so they very kindly said I could have a blind for our large kitchen window which is south-facing.

I had to cook dinner in sunglasses last summer as the sun streamed in every tea time. I looked fabulous darling but there were a couple of near misses with a sharp knife and a tin-opener-don’t ask.

My room décor is red and cream and, my friends will vouch for the fact that I absolutely love polka dots (even my pram had polka dots on it) so I went for a red, polka dot blind and, I think you will agree, it looks lovely and very farmhouse-like.

I think I underestimated how much a window dressing can change the look and feel of a room.


We’ve only been at the farm for just over a year and there is still a lot to do so I am going to have a good look round at my other rooms without blinds and curtains and see what I can do.

If you want to find out more about the sleep challenge, click here.

I did ask web-blinds if they would do the early shift with Boo one morning to help with my own personal sleep challenge but they declined. I can’t help but wonder why. Is 5am not a normal time to get up?


Disclaimer-I was given my lovely red polka dot blind for free and I absolutely love it.

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