Lockdown France – Food glorious Food

Week 7 in the big McArthur brother house

So, we have been “locked up” now for approaching two months. My husband Gary and I, our four sons (aged 30, 26, 18 and 15), our daughter, our son’s partner and a family friend… Nine of us, seven males with an average age of 30. What have we learnt so far, from this experience? 

Boys eat a lot.

Average consumption per week in this household during lockdown:

  • 14 kilo of flour 
  • 14 litre of milk
  • 14 kilo of rice/pasta/couscous
  • 5 packs of butter
  • 10kg potatoes
  • 10kg of vegetables

We make 3 big loaves of bread a day – 2 in the bread machine (1 overnight and 1 first thing in the morning) and another sour bread made from Sally the sourdough starter. All three are consumed every lunchtime together with a meal usually involving 1kg of either pasta, rice or couscous and a veg or bean sauce or a huge pot of soup. 

Evening meals involve another kilo of carbohydrate with veg and pulses. We’re vegetarian, if you hadn’t noticed!

Dessert is also made daily, doubling normal sized recipes. Cakes, brownies, cinnamon buns, hot cross buns  and homemade yoghurt to name a few. 

The average time spent preparing, eating and cleaning up after meals is around 5hrs a day. Everyone (well most at least) take a turn cooking, which is nice and adds variety.  And when we’re not cooking, eating or cleaning up there’s plenting of work to do out in the garden.

It’s been a challenge to get enough food, with limits at supermarkets on how many items can be ordered at once.  Most households are much smaller than ours.  We resorted to opening an account with a wholesaler and ordering online, flour, rice, pasta, couscous and pulses in bulk. Even then we were limited to 40 kilos of flour which barely lasted 3 weeks. 

We make our own

The first two weeks or so we couldn’t get any yeast and we ran out of bread, butter and milk for a few days. We managed to get yeast online though, so all is good for now.  Our youngest son is lactose intolerant and we can’t get his normal lactose free milk so we ordered lots of oats and are making our own oat milk… I had no idea how easy it is – 1 cup of oats to 1lt of water – whiz in a liquidizer for a minute or so and strain.  I will never buy oat milk again.

We go through lots of peanut butter, and I have been making my own for a few years now. Again, this is really easy – 1 bag of preferably unsalted nuts, 1 tablespoon of oil (I usually use coconut oil), 1 teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of honey (to taste). Whiz it all in the food processor until it’s the right consistency. We like it quite runny, so it takes about 5 minutes. Unsalted peanuts are not as easy to get hold of now.  I ordered a big box of peanuts from the wholesaler – unfortunately I didn’t realise they were monkey nuts in their shells.  However, it makes an amusing group activity to unshell a few packets around the table after lunch. If you can only get salted nuts, that works too. Several times I’ve just whizzed up a big bag of salted peanuts without adding anything else and that’s fine – a bit too salty for our taste, but still better than shop bought peanut butter.

Veggie plot is booming

Diary and vegetables are the only things we need to buy at the moment and soon we won’t need to buy veg either.  We are growing loads of own – even more than usual this year because Gary and the boys have had so much more time at home. Most of it won’t be ready for a few months yet though.

We have a polytunnel full of tomatoes, peppers and aubergines.  Some of the potatoes planted at the beginning of lockdown are nearly ready.  We do have some chard at the moment and lettuce soon (although the slugs are rather partial to those).  Gary’s also started planting out bottle and bitter gourds – an experiment this year. Plus there are courgettes, cucumbers, chilli’s, beans, onions, garlic, ginger and variety of herbs (basil, marjoram, coriander to name a few).

Usually we buy small veg plants for planting out around this time of year, but this year we have a greenhouse up and running and so we’ve grown them all from seed.  It’s very satisfying and I’m looking forward to a bumper crop this Summer.

No time to be bored

So as you can see, our lockdown life is full, with no time to be bored.  We are lucky I know to have the space to do all these things.  Funny thing is, we’ve lived here for over 15 years, but never had the time or manpower to manage it on this scale before.  There are lots of good things that are arising from this enforced stay at home, it has certainly helped us all think about what is most important to us.

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