Monday, September 14, 2009

Making Sense of it All

(referring to a series called 'Economy Gastronomy') Well, either I am living on another planet, or there really ARE people out there who spend £400 a week feeding a family of five. Some things didn't seem to ring true. Despite most of the families living on ready-meals, the tables piled with food that had been bought during a week showed plenty of vegetables, yet the mothers never seemed to cook anything at all even these.

However the idea behind the series is sound, and in each case proved how much money an be saved once we begin to cook meals instead of buy the ready prepared. Even so, the amount that was allowed to be spent was way above what it could be, and for those striving to manage on far less, this was not much help.

In the programme there are three pointers when it comes to cutting costs.
First work out how much is normally spent. Then try to reduce it.
Secondly plan the meals for the coming week, make a list of what is needed then buy only this AND NOTHING ELSE.
Thirdly cook a large amount of a 'basic' - such as mince, casseroled beef etc, enough overall to make 15 portions, and then use this in different dishes over 3 days.

The first point I firmly agree with (having already said this many times since this blog was started).
The second point I am not so sure about. True, making a menu then sticking to it does keep us from buying the unnecessaries, but then we might be missing out on a really good offer. My way is to keep options open and first see what meat/fish is at the best price and work the menu round these. Even more 'sensible' (you may think it is not) is to build up stores when at a good price and plan meals around what we have in our larder and fridge/freezers (as mentioned yesterday). Maybe this works best for me as I have always decided what will be served for supper, usually only on the day itself, and even then often change my mind as the hours go by. With a set menu already fixed in my mind (and this I sometimes do when we have guests), this is slightly more boring for me as I like to experiment a bit. But then am not out at work, so have the time to spare.

The third point - cooking a bulk amount of (say) mince. Even that has been covered before in this blog and if you look up the recipe for "magic mince" (find this in the beef recipes towards the end of March this year), you will see it gives similar suggestions. While not a bad idea to turn it into three different dishes, feel that it might be better to just make one that week then freeze the cooked mince in separate containers and use these another week in what ever way we wish.

The episodes that I've seen so far seem a bit strange in the way that they use quite expensive ingredients when they don't need to. Artichokes went into a macaroni cheese, and half a bottle of plonk went into one of the meat dishes. Perhaps the point being made was that they could still afford to do this even after reducing their food bill by over £100 a week, and maybe this is their way of proving what I keep saying - we can reduce our food budget and still manage to eat well.
Where we differ is the food budget we have to play with. Even after saving the 'guinea pigs' such a lot of money, the folks in the prog. still had enough left to spend in a week than many have to spend in a month. Or as near as dammit.

The one thing that I thought was good was the way they made a meal to serve to guests from 'only what was left in the cupboards' , but disappointed that after the menu was decided they then allowed a further £2.50 per head to buy missing ingredients. For it is not that difficult to make a three course meal of some quality for only £2.50 a head in the first place, and how convenient that there was a joint or chicken in the fridge that had already been bought and could be used as the base of the meal. It would have been more useful if they had not had the extra money and 'made do' with only what they had.