Thursday, June 23, 2011

Not as Easy as it Seems

Having spent all of yesterday afternoon trying to get back all the recipe index (March 2009) even deleting ALL the other postings for that month (don't worry, nothing of interest in them), yet still only managed to bring half of them back. Tried to shorten pages by - whenever possible - putting two recipes on one line (the second in a different colour to make it easier to see), but after hours of doing this, still seemed to be stuck half way. Even deleted one or two that weren't THAT important in the great scheme of cost-cutting-things (such as Chocolate recipes), but still no further on.
Seem to have overdone the 'ease of finding' for the list of 'Pasta recipes' and 'Rice recipes' will also be in the 'Vegetarian' or 'Beef' or 'Chicken' et al, according to what is in each dish. And suppose to some extent most recipes have been duplicated. So which 'sections' are best kept?

Do we really need the 'Cakes, Desserts, Gateaux'? index, or even 'soups'. Biscuits recipes I think could be useful, but then are dishes that will freeze (under 'Frozen') so do we really need these (the recipe on the date of posting will be marked with a blue F to show it can be frozen and also the freezing details will be given in blue)? Myself would like to bring back the 'Fish Dishes', the 'Beef', 'Chicken, Turkey', the 'Pork, Ham, Bacon', and the 'Lamb', but other things will have to go for them to return. Discovering this yesterday did not make me a happy bunny.

The only alternative now that a lot of the postings have been deleted, is to go back and start giving a list at the end of each month of recipes that have been published during that month. Used to do this but deleted them to be able to bring back more. If so, this time it would be better if the recipes were listed by the main ingredients, rather than just giving dates, so it is easier to find what we are looking for.

Anyway, on to your comments, and am thanking all of those who wrote in (and what a lot there were). Forgive me for not replying to each of you personally, today confining this to those who have sent in a query. Most of you seem to enjoy this blog as it is - with all the 'ramblings'. These will continue, but all I can say is that it seems only the most recent blogger allow to stay posted, the rest go missing, so if you wish to keep up with the Goode life, then it may have to be a matter of 'don't leave it longer than three days before you catch up'.

It's been very interesting how several of you are not really that interested in the recipes that have been posted. Yet others are. So what is best to do? Continue with recipes or - being that already such a lot of recipes have been given (and now brought back) - for the moment concentrate on hints and tips that can be used by all.

Most recipes only suit a few people for we all have different tastes and keep different ingredients in our store-cupboards. So perhaps best to work 'one-to-one' - YOU ask me for a recipe, and I will give one to you (or even three). More use than any old recipe. And Les, although you are not interested in my recipes, do hope that by requesting a few re soft drinks, that I was able to supply what you wanted.

At least we all share the same need to find ways to save money, and even these can be different according to our lifestyles. What IS important is to find the way we each enjoy the most and work from there. Some may prefer to just 'shop thriftily', others may like to do a lot more home-cooking. Some may just wish to find out how to buy the same things but spend less.

It is good to hear that I have been able to give some inspiration in the past, just suggesting 'challenges' we can give ourselves is a good way to start. Why not try something like "how much can I make for 50p?" If nothing else, this gets us working out the cost of ingredients per ounce/gram (then write this on the pack). Finding out that pearl barley is much cheaper than rice (but can be used in much the same way) can inspire us to using this grain more often.
Woozy is hoping to make £25 (to feed 2) last a week - and this really shouldn't be difficult, especially if there are a few things in her larder she can use to help her on our way.
For further inspiration go to (not sure if it is .com .org, or .uk but just writing in the name in the search box will find it. Always put in the dash between words, for there are other sites with the similar name that are not nearly as good. This site works with a budget of £25 to feed FOUR, so a good place to discover how to go about it, and find some really economical (but very good and tasty) recipes.

What all of us should realise is that we normally eat too much in the first place. We may sometimes feel hungry, but that is our brain working on 'habit' more than anything else. Those who have (for religious reasons or dieting) fasted for two days realise that hunger then disappears and eating is then of no interest whatsoever, so almost have to force themselves to start eating again. We can exist without food for some time, but what we can't do without is water to drink.

Just to make the matter clear, during World War II, food rationing was so severe that compared to today there was very little to eat. Imagine each person being allowed only one egg PER FORTNIGHT! Or about an inch cube of cheese a week.
Yet despite all the restrictions, it was possible to eat some sort of meal a day, and today these would probably be called 'pauper's fare', but it is a known fact that although many people did lose weight because of being given short rations, the only ones who lost weight were those who were overweight in the first place. Once they had reached their correct weight, the weight loss stopped. If nothing else, this shows how little food we really need to eat to keep ourselves alive and active. It's not how much we eat, it is the 'balance' of foods that we take in that is important.

After the war it has been noticeable how people have grown taller (and of course much wider!), so eating more food obviously can have an effect both for good and bad. But one might ask "are people now living longer, because they ate more simply (and more frugally) in their youth?" Think almost certainly this has to be the case (plus advancements in medication etc). On a recent programme about the Chelsea Pensioners, one very elderly man there (looking far younger than his age - he must now be well into his nineties), was a prison of war in a 'Belsen' type camp. He showed photos of himself, looking like a skeleton covered by skin. Yet obviously, after being rescued and given care, he survived and is still living.
So cutting down the amount we eat should do little harm in the long run, and probably we would all be healthier because of it.

Sarah, I don't think it makes that much difference as to what milk is used to make yogurt. Low-fat yogs are probably made with semi- or skimmed milks. Some readers like to 'beef ' up the semi-skimmed by blending in a tablespoon of dried milk, and some add evaporated milk. One thing I forgot to mention was that as the yogurt will be cold, when stirred into the warmed milk this will bring down the temperature, so the milk needs to start off slightly hotter to allow for this. Once blended it should end up at blood heat and then immediately be tucked up to get on with the job.
If, for some reason, the yog doesn't seem to have 'set', then just reheat it and try again. At worst, 'runny' yog can be used in baking, or for drinking - it now seems that 'runny yog' is now being sold for this very purpose. Normally even 'mistakes' can always be used, and should never be thrown away.

Sometimes I think we can get too obsessed about what meals we should be making. Myself like to make sure that my Beloved never has the same main ingredient two days running. It might be lamb one day, beef, another, then perhaps a veggie dish, then chicken.... Yet, in my youth it was normal for a joint to be cooked on a Sunday and for the rest of the week (Fri excluded - this was always fish), the cold meat was served in different guises. The only change being that a different meat was cooked each Sunday (either beef, veal, lamb or pork, and different veggies serves according to season. In those days chicken was eaten only on high days and holidays).
It would certainly be simpler if we went back to using this idea, but would it work out cheaper?

If I had £25 to spend to feed two, then would first buy the (animal protein) foods that would go as far as possible, definitely one chicken (pref as large as possible), or - if it worked out cheaper - a mixed tray of chicken drumsticks and thighs. Fifteen eggs (£1.50 supermarket's cheapest) would be a must, and probably 2 x 4 pints milk (usually reduced in price when bought this way). At least a week's veggies should be able to be bought for £5 (including some fruit), and certainly a bag of porridge oats wouldn't be expensive, so boring these may sound, at least that's breakfasts and main meals almost sorted. What else would be useful? Possibly a pack of bacon pieces, maybe some cheese (look for this on the 'reduced' counter), and bread. Certainly flour and Stork marg. if baking is to be done. Perhaps a packet of pearl barley (use as rice) and a packet of pasta. With eggs and flour we can even make our own pasta.

The real work then starts: making the most of what we have. Simmering chicken bones and skin, and certainly a chicken carcase (also with skin and bones) will make a good stock, and this with veggies then will make more than one soup. Stock can also help to add flavour to a risotto (make with pearl barley) or other grain. Save the fat that rises to the top of the stock (easily removed after chilling) and use this for frying (or even when making savoury pastry), and there should be plenty of chicken flesh that can be removed from a simmered carcase to make at least one more dish.
If other meats need to be bought, then suggest pork mince (slightly cheaper than beef mince) and takes less time to cook. Certainly lamb's liver (no waste) and chicken livers (very cheap from the supermarket).

Don't forget that 'own brands' can SOMETIMES be worth buying. Myself have discovered that several ARE almost as good at the top brands, the cheaper baked beans only fault being they have too much sauce (and in every instance all the beans tasted exactly the same, it was the sauce that was slightly different in flavour). But if fussy, nothing to stop us draining/rinsing off the sauce (keep this to add to a soup or spag bol...) and mix with a can of the much more expensive beans.

Having said that, we should be wary of some 'own-brand' offers. Recently made the mistake of buying 2 packs of a supermarket's own brand Chicken Kievs. Each pack containing four, and buying two packs the offer was "buy two for £3". So I fell for it. In the past other brands of Chicken Kievs have been really good value. Not so in this case.
Yesterday, as hadn't had anything to eat all day, whilst preparing B's supper (lamb shank, potatoes and peas, plus the usual tracklements), suddenly felt hungry, so decided to eat 2 of the Kievs (and they were small despite each having 375 calories), with a few of the potatoes and peas.
Have to say that after the first bite, realised how AWFUL the Kievs were, but manfully eat the lot, mainly because it goes against the grain to throw food away, although in this instance should have done for half an hour later ended up with dyspepsia again and had to take to my bed.

Reading the pack this morning see that the Kievs were made with 'chopped and shaped chicken with added water". True the 'ingredients' said 43% chicken, but what part of a chicken? We all know now that 'chopped and shaped' can mean all sorts of 'bits and bobs' can end up as 'pre-formed' meat before it ends up on our plate. Suffice to say the meat part of the Kiev was like eating soggy bread. There also seemed to be far more coating around the - let's not call it chicken - filling, than the filling itself. The coating was too far too dry, and because it was made with breadcrumbs probably these contained the preservatives and additives that 'bought' bread now seem to affect me adversely.
It now seems that when I eat 'processed foods' my digestion suffers. Eating anything home-made I have no problem with. Fortunately some canned foods: baked beans, tinned fish, corned beef....don't affect me, although now all spiced sauces (curry and chilli), some cuppa soups and ketchups do.
Walker's potato crisps I can eat without a problem. Tortilla chips from the supermarket I now have to avoid. Myself believe that after years of eating foods that contain additives and preservatives (to lengthen their shelf-life) and with no outward sign of them doing me harm, there is a limit to how much can be taken, and our bodies - being able to discern what is good for us and what is not (if we are prepared to listen) will tell us when 'enough is enough'. It is said that when we die, our bodies don't deteriorate as rapidly as in the past due to all the 'preservatives' eaten over the years. If this is the case, then this proves these 'additives' build up on our bodies. And we don't want that, do we?

But I digress. Back to living on the breadline. Perhaps one of the best things we can do when making a start at cutting costs to the extreme, is to 'stock-take'. Write down all the food we have in the larder/cupboards, fridge and freezer. It's surprising how much we can find hidden behind other packs. All these should be able to provide the means of making a meal, and all we have to do then is buy 'the fresh'. It's also useful to keep these lists up to date, crossing off what we use and adding more as we buy, then we've always got a record of what we have at the time.
This may seem more trouble than it's worth, but believe me - it IS worth doing. The more we can get a professional approach to our 'catering', the more money we will save and - at the same time -the better the meals we can produce.

It nearly always works out cheaper if we can make a meal from scratch, rather than paying some manufacturer to do half the job for us. But often this can take so much time we do have to sometimes use something 'convenient'. This may be a stock cube, or it may be a casserole mix. I am guilty of using both.
But there are convenience foods and convenience foods. Some start sensibly, and then end up just plain silly. Take custard powder. Used by our grannies, and still today as far cheaper than making custard from scratch. Yet it has gone from worse to worse. Firstly by offering packs of 'instant custard mix' (just add water) through ready-to-serve custard in cans or packs, to now cans of aerosol custard. The one good thing about canned custard is that it doesn't 'split' when frozen. Neither does 'Quick-Jel', so it's quite possible to make a trifle that will freeze (whipped double cream also freezes well) and not 'weep' once thawed. Not that we would really need to, but the info is given just in case).

The more self-sufficient we become the cheaper it is to feed the family, but not when it comes to making cheese. As it takes 1 gallon (8 pints) of milk to make just one pound of hard cheese, practically all our English cheeses are cheaper to buy than to make ourselves (and we'd have to wait a few months before they were ready to be eaten. Been there, done know what I'm talking about).
On the other hand we can easily make the soft 'curd/cream' cheeses by straining yogurt through muslin. Using home-made yogurt this works out much cheaper than something similar bought.

Some bought cakes, scones and biscuits can be almost a cheap as those we make ourselves, but nowhere near as good, usually having that 'raising agent' taste to them. Not to mention the dreaded additives to help them have a longer shelf-life.
In the past have proved that it is possible to make 36 drop scones (aka Scotch Pancakes) that cost no more than a packet of 6 bought from the supermarket. In other words making them ourselves we end up with six times as many, and a perfect example of the sense of finding out how much it would cost to make ourselves before we bother to buy. Muffins too are cheap (and very easy) to make, yet expensive to buy.

We do not have to sacrifice quality to keep costs down. It costs no more to make a jar of good marmalade (using MaMade or similar) than the cost of the cheapest on the market. Same with jam. Cheap jam is like a 'spread' of mushed up mixed fruits (often just rhubarb and apple - read the label), whereas for the same price we can make our own jams where we can see and taste the whole fruits (for cheaper fruits ask your greengrocer at the weekend if he has any that won't keep - town markets also the place to go to late Saturday afternoon, or visit a 'pick your own farm'. Have to say my jam is now alway 'mixed fruits', using all the bits and bobs that have been stored in the freezer, a few black and red currants, black berries, strawberries, raspberries, maybe apple (but not rhubarb in mixed jam). 1 lb fruit to 1 lb sugar. Tastes wonderful!
For this reason am wishing to retain 'Preserves and Pickles' in the index if at all possible as these also make good gifts to add to the Christmas Hamper. But of course if the index has to be deleted, still have the details in my personal records, so all is not lost.

Enough for today (and perhaps too much), so will now continue deleting other 'unnecessaries' from past posting still waiting to be edited. Will wait to hear from you what you think is the best way to tackle the index problem.
Have to say there are times when I wish I'd never started this blog, it's all getting far too complicated. But then couldn't do without having our daily chat over our virtual cuppa, so with gritted teeth, will continue feverishly tapping away, and while I'm at it will make a 'dough man' to represent so that I can stick pins in it for making my life difficult.
Your comments always cheer me up immensely, so keep them coming. Hope you can join me tomorrow, see you then.