Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Retail Therapy

Regarding the amount of food normally thrown away each week - said to be about one third of the weekly purchase, and thrown away even if still edible - when it comes to Christmas I read yesterday that this wastage increases to a massive 80%!!! This I find incredible, but sadly true, so we should bear this in mind during the run up to the festive season and make quite sure we buy only as much as we can eat during that time (or at least be able to freeze any surplus).

Myself never do know why we always buy so much more food than normal at this time, for it is not the amount of food that makes a festive meal, more the serving of traditional dishes, and presenting them in a different and hopefully more attractive way. Why buy a huge turkey, when a much smaller bird, or even turkey crown will suffice? None of us really want to keep eating turkey in one form or another over the following days, and in truth, most of us feel more like eating less than normal after the Big Binge on Christmas Day. A lot depends upon how many will be eating the meal, for when normally feeding two, and then faced with a much larger number round the table, it is easy to over-compensate and buy far too much food as a way to make sure there is enough.
Take the professional approach and think 'portion control' (allowing a little bit extra for the gannets). As long as plates are full (and it doesn't take much of anything to fill a Christmas plate when you consider that besides a few slices of turkey (both white and dark meat) and gravy, we have sausages, bacon rolls, stuffing, roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, bread sauce, Brussels sprouts, carrots, and/or parsnips, peas, squash, cranberry sauce...) everyone will feel well fed. A tablespoon of peas put into half a satsuma shell and placed around the bird, looks different, and everyone can take one, yet probably ending up with less peas because of it.
Allow enough extra for seconds, although most people will not really need to eat more, especially when a starter has been served. After all, there is Christmas pudding to follow!

Maybe buying food for Christmas is another form of retail therapy, we are entranced and tempted by all the food in the sparkly wrappings, and we wish to load our tables with as many edible treats as possible. Cooks love to spoil their family and friends, and we know it won't all be eaten, but does it really matter just for once?
Well, it should matter, particularly during this credit crunch (and with the warning of all that possible and unnecessary wastage).

A recent letter in the paper was from a lady who, because of lack of funds this year, has this year had to start making her own (with the help of her children) Christmas decorations, presents, cards, and food, and what she did say is that they are all loving every minute of it. That says a lot. So bring back the good old days (or dare I even say Goode old days), and enjoy the real pleasures of Christmas past and now present.

We are fortunate in having two fairly large holly bushes in our garden, one in the front, one in the back. Both need pruning, so with a few false berries (saved from previous years), the house can be traditionally trimmed at no cost at all. If no holly, we can still make our own decorations, and the most amazing festoons can be made using old plastic carrier bags (read Have a Goode Year to find out the cheapest decorations we can make). We can trim a tree with edible gingerbread shapes, and string popcorn and cranberries together to drape over the branches. Narrow strips of kitchen foil wrapped round a ballpoint pen will make 'ringlets' to dangle from the tree.
Placing a small ball of kitchen paper on top of an upturned empty yogurt pot, then covering them both tightly with a circle of foil, tucking the ends up into the pot, makes a 'silver' bell, that can be hung, with others, from a tree or shelf.
Open up a wire coat hanger to form a circle, and use this as a frame for attaching ivy, pine cones, and any Christmas decorations, and hang by the hook as a door decoration.

Get the children to cut up glossy and colourful junk mail into strips (or a parent can do this if the children are small) and then they can link and glue them together to make paper chains.

When it comes to Christmas crackers, the easiest way is to buy the very cheapest, then carefully ease open one end and drop in a gift of your choice before closing the gap again. Just make sure the right person gets the cracker.
Good cracker 'inserts' are (according to the individual and their hobbies), a folded book of postage stamps, a packet of seeds, a lipstick, new batteries, small pens, packet of sewing needles,
book token, lottery scratch cards.... and am sure you can think of a lot more small things that will fit inside a cracker.