Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Rising Cost of Food

Yesterday, in our daily paper, was a feature listing increased prices on some of over 1,000 food products, many of which have risen in the last four weeks. Some fruit and vegetables have even doubled in price. This does make it difficult, even impossible to cost out a dish and then expect it to stay the same for the next six months or so.
However, there are a couple of items in the list that will always work out cheaper when home made. One is bread: a supermarket 400g Crusty White Loaf has increased from 60p to 74p, home-made, even using a quality bread mix, works out at less than £1 for two loaves of that size.
Orange marmalade 454g (1 lb) has risen from 98p - to £1.06. Home-made, using a can of prepared oranges, works out at 38p per lb. Even adding finely diced preserved ginger to the orange, or lime zest and juice to the lemon variety only adds a few coppers more per pot.
Tip: With the tins of prepared marmalade, I use 2kg sugar instead of 4lbs, and one pint of water instead of 3/4pt, and get around 7lbs of marmalade instead of 6, and it still sets perfectly.
An extra good tip: wait for special promotions, with any luck the favourite brands will be back down to a much reduced price. Especially if we stop buying them in the meantime.

Mo has asked me what I do with the mounds of paper-work. There is not as much as it seems. Once I have worked out costings I can usually remember them - such as:
1/4 pint of reconstituted milk (5p) ,
1/2 oz sugar (1p),
a serving of porridge oats (3p),
then I know a bowl of porridge will cost me 9p max. But dilute the milk (the Scots make their porridge with water alone) and it will be even cheaper.
A medium loaf (£1) has 20 slices, including crusts (5p slice) , so a complete breakfast of porridge and 1 slice of toast with home-made marmalade (3p + 4p for butter), and a mug of coffee (3p for the granules), need not cost more than 25p max.
On the other hand my husband likes home-made muesli, which does add a few more pennies. But if a box of Special K has risen from £2 to £2.58 (and how many servings is that? Will somebody let me know as that will save me buying a pack to find out) , I am sure my breakfast gives better value for lower cost.

Naturally, a full English breakfast (bacon, sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms, fried or scrambled egg, fried bread) will cost more. Even so, there is sense in the saying : "At breakfast eat like a king, in the evening dine like a pauper." When you need strength to labour through the day, by all means begin the morning with a good meal and burn off those calories while you work. At night sleep all the better after a lighter meal. Whichever way round, the cost for the day should not alter very much. A lot of the way we eat is by habit rather than by what is best for us at that time.

Because this recipe uses just the yolks of eggs, this gives me the chance to point out that a lot can be done with just the leftover whites, so always take advantage when you have them. In this instance I would probably make up a batch of Italian Meringue (which is the base for the soft-scoop ice-cream in an earlier posting), then take out spoonfuls to to dry off in a cooling oven, to be stored in tins for future use. They keep almost indefinitely given the chance. Into the remaining meringue I would fold in yoghurt and whipped cream plus any flavourings etc. to make a tub of ice-cream. Not quite three for the price of one, but getting there.

Avgolemono Soup
50g (20z) long-grain rice
1 ltr (1 3/4 pt) chicken stock
3-4 egg yolks
juice of 1 lemon
chopped parsley for garnish
Put the stock and the rice in a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 12-15 minutes until the rice is tender. Remove from heat. Put the egg yolks and lemon juice into a bowl and beat together. Beat in a little of the hot stock, then pour this into the pan containing the rice and remaining stock. Whisk until the broth has thickened, but do not boil or the eggs will curdle.
Serve hot with the parsley sprinkled over.