Friday, June 24, 2011

Challenges are not the only Routes

Although a 'see how much you can buy for £5" challenges is an excellent way to searching out the lower priced grocery products, having gone onto Tesco's site today to check prices, realise that when it comes to the fresh fruit and veg, even though this challenge can still work, we have to think a little more carefully before we buy or we may end up spending more than we need. In other words, look at the wider picture.

Firstly, many veggies will store for much longer than a week (especially in a fridge), so it often makes sense to buy packs rather than individual produce when we wish to keep costs down. Produce in packs' can often work out cheaper than buying loose, and enough in the bag to last us at least 2 weeks, often a month. So an initial £10 expenditure could end up working out at only £2.50 a week.

A few examples to prove the point:
A 5 kg pack of Market Value potatoes at £1.89 could last a month, although myself might prefer to buy the 1kg packs of Baby New Potatoes at £1.25 each (for this you get two as they are on BOGOF), as these are better quality. It is said potatoes should not be kept in the fridge, because over time the starches turn to sugar. Myself quite like this 'sweeter' taste of the 'babies', for at least it IS a taste, which is more than you can say for most spuds. The larger spuds are kept in a dark cool place.

Although a Market Value (soft) lettuce is only (only?) 50p, again myself would buy one Iceberg lettuce at twice the price (£1) knowing it would keep at least 3 weeks in the fridge and last far longer than the 'soft'. Best always to buy these in store for then we can pick the one most solid. Another may look larger but weigh less. Why pay for air trapped between the leaves? With any vegetables sold by the unit, always best to weigh to find out the heaviest (always supposing scales are to hand).
With this in thought, perhaps one of those small 'hand scales' that fishermen use might be worth taking to the store so we can do our own weighing.

Pack of Market Value carrots (2 kg) for 76p I know also store well and would probably be more than enough for a month. White cabbage (43p per lb) is also another good keeper.

A pack of cooking onions is probably the cheapest way to buy. We should get at least nine onions for £1 and probably a lot more (easy enough to count when in a clear plastic bag, so if you can find the bag with the most - although some will be smaller than others - buy those). These will keep for more than a month at room temperature.

One parsnip at 37p could be useful, as 1 pack of vacuum beetroot for 67p (which will keep for months if left unopened). Heads of fresh broccoli are shown as "2 for ~£1.50" (so this might work out cheaper to buy it frozen).
A head of celery at 87p with keeping qualities for at least a month in the fridge, is another 'must buy'.

As regards fruit. One banana costs 12p, a bag of Market Value apples (80p) is much cheaper than buying 'named apples' (and they are good, I've had some). A pack of oranges (six in the pack as shown in the picture, but think they often are sold in fours) at £1.25 also useful as they keep fairly well.
A pack of Kiwi fruit for 80p is worth thinking about for each has loads more Vit C than one orange, the juices from a cut Kiwi rubbed on meat helps to tenderise it, and it's a very attractive fruit when peeled and sliced to brighten up a fruit salad or even garnish something.
If not Kiwi, then we could buy a pack of pears for the same price - possibly 6 in a pack.

A quick tot up of the above brings the total to just under £11, but considering many of the above will keep/last for up to and over a month, and working on a £5 a week budget for fruit and veg, this leaves approx £9 left to buy others in smaller quantities, maybe tomatoes, cucumber, maybe mushrooms, Butternut squash... maybe all fourAND more. So it's always worth working out just how much we can buy that will last for more than a week, then fitting in other purchases into the wider budget.
Think I could have explained this more clearly, but hope you get my drift.

In yesterday's paper there was a feature about a new crop of websites that now sell food to the public at (generally) a much cheaper price than the supermarkets. But to gain these advantages we have to buy in bulk. A few examples were given by a mother of three (does she have a partner as well? No mention of this) who normally spends £130 a week in the supermarket.
Examples were given as to purchases from and by ordering just 10 of her regular buys from them she said these would save a massive £523.99p per year (and this after a few losses were made when the supermarket wines were cheaper). But as she hasn't taken into account any offers the supermarkets give over the next twelve months, the savings could be less, although buying now she will certainly be saving if prices rise during that time.

Different items were bought from different on-line stores, so it's difficult for me to compare like with like, but the above mentioned one seemed to come out tops. Full details of the above may be able to be found on the Daily Mail website (look for femail The Incredible Bulk, Thursday June 23rd - article by Amanda Cable).
All delivery charges are much the same as the supermarkets charge (around £5 a delivery), and if interested check out also: , and even - as this is now offering bulk sales of groceries.
Approved Foods was not given a mention, so possibly there are other similar sites we could discover. Anyone know of any?

As ever, the best advice I can give with the above is not buy to hoard, but get a group together willing to share the benefits of bulk buying. This way everying gets a bite of the cherry, remembering that most of us don't have the room to store much anyway.

Now to your comments. Yes Aileen, I promise to keep up the 'ramblings', just as long as you are aware than later (if not sooner) most will be deleted, although now knowing the problem, can probably work to keep some in.
One problem is that the title given to older (edited) postings now seem to bear little (or no) relation to the content that has been left in. Sorry about that. Maybe possible to change them, but that is something to do in the future.

Pleased you are finding my 'Rule of Four' works for you Woozy, this may not be the simplest way to reduce costs, but it certainly gets us thinking more about the different prices on (say) meats/fish so we can choose which is the 'best buy', than just deciding this is the day we always eat lamb chops
Yesterday discovered that recipes for "no-knead" bread can be found on 26th Feb 2011, and also on 3th Dec. 2010, so hope these will be useful for you.

Will probably delete the Frozen section of the recipe index, and also cakes, maybe even the biscuits, but will try to squeeze in the beef, lamb, chicken, fish etc, and definitely keep in the preserves.
Yesterday, just to make thing a little different, decided to work down from April of this year, instead of working up from 2008 where I think I left off. So far have pruned down to the start of Oct. 2010, and today will continue. Eventually will meet up with the earlier ones that have been 'cleared, so by the end of this week, and with all my fingers and toes crossed, the blog should then be left with mainly recipes, hints and tips. Only the most recent (say the last four weeks) will have the 'full Monty' of ramblings.

Noticed when I went to the Tesco site that there were sellling "vegetarian approved pet foods". For goodness sake, who are we to decide to give foods to animals they are not designed to eat. Nature having made the correct decision as to what different creatures should eat, and who are we to say we know better? The 'inner workings' of a carnivore are geared to digesting meat, the same way it has designed the body of a herbivore to eat leaves/berries etc. It's not just we eat it as food, it's also nature's way of 'clearing up the debris', culling species so one doesn't overtake another, in other words keeping the balance of the whole planet.
Man is (perhaps) more fortunate as he (as an omnivore) can eat a very wide variety of both, and we have the freedom to choose from plenty. Leaving religion out of it, our Bible says a lot of sense when it comes to food, and although before the Flood everyone was a vegetarian, after the Flood, we were then 'allowed' to eat meat (probably to keep the numbers down). Even then some (sensible) restrictions - no pork (in those days usually contained tapeworms, and if not cooked correctly....), and with no good sewage system, shellfish too (they like to feast on 'mucky bits') were also dangerous food.

There is always (and perhaps rightly) one part of the population that cannot bear to have animals killed just so we can eat them, especially when there is something else to eat. This is completely understandable, but if we all did this, if not need to be reared for food, most of these animals would never have been born. So by not eating meat, do we also deny them the right to live, even if only for a few years? Cows need to provide a calf a year to keep producing milk, and if we stop eating meat, then we would end up fields full of cattle no-one will kill, which then cost a fortune to feed, and because of lack of arable land, this then ups the price of all veggies. The only 'profitable' use for these animals would be to kill them anyway and use them as pet food.
Well, that's the way I tend to look at it. Probably wrong, but to deny anything the right to live just because it doesn't suit our 'morals' then perhaps we are not as 'holier than thou' as we like to think. It's no good saying that if something hasn't lived, then it hasn't missed anything. This may be true, but in this case why is there such an outcry against abortion (not that I agree with that, just making a point)?
No doubt you will start slagging me my thoughts on the above, but perhaps time I gave you something to nag me about. Do realise I'm not always right.

Returning to my 'pruning of postings', as mentioned above, decided yesterday instead of working up from the earliest, chose (after trying to sort out the index), to work down from earlier this year. Reason was that when I get fed up doing something, it's always best to find a different approach or - being me - might give up altogether.
This works particularly well when it comes to cooking, budgeting etc. Always I keep having to 'ring the changes', usually in the form of 'challenges', and will often don different hats and 'play' grocer (stocking up my shelves), 'customer' (buying from myself), chef (cooking up extra special meals for Beloved), and now and again - 'old style housewife' (cooking traditional fare and making lots of preserves and pickles). Add to that 'gardener', so you see that there is a lot to keep me interested even within my domestic environment. Just occasionally might even put on my Hilda Ogden pinny and play 'cleaning lady (but not as often as I should - last year's spring cleaning is still waiting to be done). Possibly the most fun came when I used to play 'au pair' (Beloved especially liked those days), but now am a bit too old to get away with it.

So, if any reader finds that cost-cutting is becoming a bit too much like hard work with no pleasure involved, all they have to do is take another approach. Might be something a simple as making a meal for four that costs no more than 50p per head, or just working out how much per ounce/gram basic ingredients are (knowing the cost of small amounts helps to work out the cost of a recipe). Pretending to teach someone how to cook the dish you are making (all you have to do is don an apron, then talk out loud as though there was someone watching your 'demonstration') really helps to improve the way we approach the dish. Showing how to prepare the 'makings' in advance, how to slice correctly, etc, etc. Sounds daft, but it does work. Found that when I used to make my own clothes, often ended up holding them together with a safety pin instead of sewing in a zip, but when I 'taught' my invisible student, the garment always ended up correctly and fully put together.
All right, so I'm a bit eccentric. Live with it.

'Upstairs' have been having a bit of a clear out, and dumped a lot of stuff they didn't want into 'their' shed (which is right next to our back door). Beloved offered to take what they didn't want to the tip for them (they don't have a car), and they said if there was anything we wanted we could have it. A lovely little well-made wooden three-drawer chest has now found a place in our kitchen. Found it fitted just under the kitchen table, so when pushed right to one side, it is now placed next to where I sit, and already filled with all the freezer bags, foil, baking parchment, clingfilm. labels etc. that I need when 'dealing with food'. As I nearly always work from the table, not the unit tops (to save me getting a backache), this makes it far more convenient for me. Now have three larger drawers next to Boris (these used to hold the above) that need to be filled with other things. Great fun, just love having empty spaces to fill. Am sure eventually that everything will have its rightful place and the kitchen should then be fairly 'uncluttered'.
Clutter elsewhere around the house I can shut my eyes to, but clutter in the kitchen depresses me. Need to know where everything is, as having to search is a waste of time, and by the time I've found it have usually gone off the idea of what was going to be made in the first place.

Having been stuck at the comp with not a thought of food (that's a laugh considering I'm always writing about it), this means my meals have been almost non-existant this week, just living off mainly coffee, and an evening meal of salads/fruit (yes, did have that dreadful Kiev but would rather forget about it). This means I've lost over 5 lbs weight this week and hopefully will lose a little more by Sunday. It has to be Sunday because that is the day Gill phones me and I do so want to tell her I have reached AND gone beyond a certain (and not telling) stone weight. You could call it a 'mile stone'. As Gill keeps gaining weight, soon I'll end up lighter than she is, and can start wearing the lovely clothes that she chucks out anyway because they are too small for her. He, he, he...will just love that! She won't.

B made another loaf yesterday, he still hasn't got it right, so another (silent) he, he, he from me. It's so nice to know I can (still) make better ones.

Nearly 10.00. Sun is shining and later will go out into the garden to water the plants that need it. Before that will continue the indoor 'pruning' on the comp. To give me time to do this will now have to take my leave, and hope you'll all be returning again tomorrow. If so - see you then.
(spell check failed so apologies for any mistakes).