Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Applying Ourselves

The other day realised how many lovers of DIY (usually men) surround themselves with tools - often duplicated - even when they are rarely used. Even though a hedge may be small and cut only twice a year, any man can tell you buying an electric hedge trimmer is justified.
Yet the same man might sometimes dig his toes in if his OH requests a labour-saving appliance in the kitchen that would be used at least once a week and cost half the price. Boy's toys are one thing, women's needs another.

If we feel a twinge of guilt spending money on a labour-saving appliance (when OH is saving for a bigger car), we should always remember that the kitchen is OUR workplace, and the more 'help' we have, the easier the works gets, and the better the results. The way to a man's heart is still through his stomach.
In the old days, even the lower middle class could afford to have at least one maid who did most of the work the kitchen appliances do today. The days of us being a skivvy is over, eating crumbs from our master's table. We don't even need maids. Just buy an appliance and press a switch.

What we have to remember, is that unlike some weekend gardeners, most females of the species (and it has to be said - also many men) tend to work in the kitchen each and every day. So no-one needs more helping hands than a cook. We are after all in the 21st century, and however much we like to play at 'doing things the old way', this is only fun for a short time. In any case, kitchen appliances can do more for us than we realise, for - used wisely- many can also save us money. Over time, quite a lot of money. Which can then be spent on buying another appliance.

Using a food processor, foods that might normallybe thrown in the bin, such as stale bread, ends of hard cheese...can be easily grated and stored in the fridge/freezer. That's some money saved. 'Ready-mixes' (pastry mix, crumble mix, scone mix, shortbread mix...) can be home-made in bulk, chilled or frozen for instant use. Cheaper than the manufactured packs, so more money-saved. Left-overs from an evening meal can be pureed and made into soups. Even more savings. And so it goes on.

Several times over the years I've saved up to buy one of the more expensive 'gadgets', and been thankful for it. The important thing to remember is that once bought they should not be pushed to the back of the cupboard, but used regularly. Only this way can they work for their living. In other words - pay for themselves. My family love cold meats, and packs of sliced ham, beef, and chicken are not cheap to buy. Buying an electric slicing machine to carve up home-cooked joints saved me more money in the first three month that the machine cost. The same goes with many other appliances.

My bread machine has (and still is) proving invaluable. Home-made bread is the best thing since sliced, and almost worth it for the aroma alone wafting through the kitchen. Also cheaper than the quality bread on supermarket shelves. Another money-saver. The loaf can even be sliced using the 'leccy slicer' if I wish.
My slow-cooker, is another money-saver, despite it being around 30 years old. The cheapest stewing meat never gets ruined when cooked at such a low temperature, and is so very tender with wonderful flavour (even better flavour than fillet steak). The fuel saving is remarkable as compared to a confidential oven, as the slow-cookers use only as much energy (or little more) as a light bulb.

My EasyYo yogurt maker is another 'best buy'. Once made, the yogurt keeps well in the fridge (at least 2 weeks), and straining the yogurt it can be turned into soft cheese. Again cheaper than buying the ready-made. More money saved to put in my piggy-bank.

As you know, money has always been - well, let's say minimal - when it comes to the Goode kitchen budget. So when I buy something it has to be for good reason, and if I couldn't afford it - then made 'deliberate savings' until I could.
A 'deliberate' saving is putting a little bit more thought into where our money goes. This can either be making something from scratch that we might normally buy, or be a canny shopper and keep our store cupboards stocked only with foods that were sold 'on offer.

A well-stocked storecupboard is a thrifty cooks pot of gold for the earlier months of this year - this mentioned again mainly for newer readers of this site - was able to prove that by living out of the store-cupboard and not crossing the threshold of any shop for at least a month, the 'emergency food fund' (£10 a week) did not need to be spent and so was then able to be used for something I would not normally have been able to afford - which was that superb quality beef that was on offer from DR. One more step up the ladder of good(e) eating without any extra expense. All we have to do is make these 'deliberate' savings, then spend these wisely and our standard of culinary life will improve in leaps and bounds.

In days long past, when there were no 'appliances', a lot of time and elbow grease was spent whisking, beating, blending, crumbing, grating, shredding, chopping and pureeing. No wonder then that meals were fairly 'ordinary'. Only cooks (who had kitchen maids to help) had time to make something more elaborate. In a one-person kitchen, the less preparation needed, the better. Now a food processor can do almost all the above, sometimes within seconds. All too often we take these appliances for granted and do not use them to their full potential. Think of them as a way to save money. Keep them on the unit tops ready to be used, not pushed into a cupboard.