Sunday, July 17, 2011

Does it Ever End?

So many things to 'chat' about today, thought I'd better put up a preliminary posting to say this blog would be published later than usual. Partly my fault for getting up late, then with scribbling down replies to comments on my note-pad, the arrival of the trade mag (which I began to read), then Gill phoning for her usual hour, only now have time to begin.

Where do I start? Replies to comments should come first, so thank you for yours Aileen. It is true that in 'the old days' (like when I was a girl), women were forced to go out to work because financially they needed to. But B and I were married and 'dirt poor' (as the saying goes), because we had children, my Beloved felt 'my place' was at home even though we did need more money. Eventually (because B was out of work at the time), did manage to get an evening job in our local hostelry (much more fun than the factory work B was hoping I would get). But neither of us wished for me to be away from home during the day. When we moved to Leeds (and still on one wage - having four children did not wish them to be 'latch-key' children, and anyway the work load of looking after the house, children and all it represented would still fall on my shoulders, so it made sense to stay and home and earn a bit of 'pin-money' selling a few home-crafts. Sometimes this meant working all evening and into the early hours of next day, but was at least contributing in some small way, and being at home meant by cooking, sewing, knitting and gardening, was probably able to save a lot more money than having to end up buying clothes and convenience foods.

As you say, it has become 'traditional' these days for women to go back to work after a year after the birth of a child. A year is stretching it a bit - most women seem to want to return to work in a couple of months. Even though child care costs more than any money earned, they still wish to return to work, so the need is not then financial, more to retain independence I suppose. Doubt any child of that age bothers too much about who is caring for it, but somehow the 'parenting/bonding' side seems to be missing. In wealthy households it was (and probably still is) the nanny employed who the child remembers more fondly that the mother. Possibly, when the wealthy had offspring, it was mainly to keep the family name going, and not for any particular love if children, for these often prevent a former life-style being continued. Perhaps another reason when outgrown the nanny stage, quite young children were packed off to boarding school.
Is it perhaps today we have become too selfish regarding our personal needs? Not prepared to give them up - even to spend 10 years of our life caring for our family? Possibly, probably. How would I know? Everyone can give a good reason for doing something, but is it always the right one? If money forces us to go out to work, then nothing wrong with that, but to opt out of 'traditional' responsibilities just because we are not happy with our personal lot, is perhaps a sign of our times.

Seems today that married couples split up almost as soon as the 'honeymoon' period is over. Pressures such as paying for bills start rearing their ugly heads. Fights over who shares the chores, one wanting to do what the other doesn't etc. Arguments over whose parents shall we spend Xmas with and so on.
Life is not always a bed of roses, and for some - not ever. Perhaps youngsters need counselling before they get married, not after. Even when children arrive, parents still seems to find good reasons to split up. Taking responsibility seems to be something only our forebears bothered with. Today someone else can do it, as long as it's not us.

But enough of that. I'm supposed to be replying to comments, and again another of my bees is buzzing in my bonnet. Ignore my opinions. They are probably old-fashioned to say the least (but I know I'm right!).

Pity you have to lose your tomato troughs Aileen, you could try growing the 'Tumbler' variety in baskets, hanging either side of your new doors. The variety I have is very prolific, as is another 'plum' shaped variety, with fruits a reasonable size, not the tiny 'cherry' ones. Once heavy enough to 'tumble over', this leaves the back of the pot or basket rather bare, so you could also grow herb basil at in the same pot, or some trailing geraniums (the leaves of which can be eaten in salads, as can the flowers).

Thanks for your comment MimsyS. Certainly if I fretted about people's opinions of me, I would never put pen to paper (or fingers on keyboards), and feel everyone should be free to live life as the wish. And for that matter have freedom of speech to say what they wish, although have to admit myself tend to dislike people who have closed minds. Maybe I prefer having a discussion (B calls these 'arguments' so will never discuss anything with me because - to him - I always believe I am right. Well, perhaps he is not wrong in that. Could be this means I too have a closed mind. Not so - I will always listen to another point of view and this has often proved me wrong). As you say - wish we could all sit down round a table and chat in person instead of via the comp. But at least this is better than not 'chatting' at all.
Regarding cooking. Agree very much about the need to cook for 'someone else', rather than just for ourselves. If alone am sure I would live on a can of baked beans (eaten from the can with a spoon - and when I once said this previously, someone looked down their nose and called me a 'chav'. Yippee, a nearly 80 year old 'chav'! Didn't know they existed. The reason I do this is because it saves me having a bowl to wash up. Lazy or what?). Sometimes I have a microwaved jacket potato (also with beans), or a cuppa soup, or sarnies and more sarnies. If I HAD to cook, it would probably be quick-cook pasta with a spoon of pesto, maybe even an omelette on a good day. For me a meal cooked by someone else is a luxury. Cooked by myself is just a chore i would rather not have to do. Strange that, when I can spend most of the day just cooking a meal for only Beloved. But then - it is for someone else. As has always been said, the best way we can show our love is to cook for our family.

Even the thought that what a lot of what we do is taken for granted, in a way this proves that there is something being done for others. When we feel a bit disgruntled, easy enough to stop doing whatever for a while, THEN it will be missed. Perhaps the best way (and one I will be doing from now on) is to keep reminding 'certain people' what is being done for them (by me). And that life would not be so good for them if I stopped doing it. Unfortunately some people will eat anything, and am sure if I served B bought 'ready-meals' he wouldn't care as long as they were large enough. Maybe it's just the fact I can't afford to (and never have been able to afford to) that rankles.

When it comes to 'robbing Peter to pay Paul' it is usually the food budget that is the only flexible opton, and your suggestion to spend less on food (even though you may not need to), and put the savings towards paying off a mortgage is a very sensible one Urbanfarmgirl. For one thing (if I am correct), mortgage interests are at an all time low, so this makes it the right time to try and reduce the amount owing. For who knows what the future will bring. In any case - myself feel that the very sense of achievement gained by spending less on food (and growing our own) far outweighs any pleasure (if you can call it that) of buying the 'ready-mades'.

There was an article in the newspaper this week about the couple who won all those millions (and good luck to them), followed by an article written by a man who had less (well, none has won more) , but he still won millions, and he said after the initial weeks of being able to do all the things he wanted, he then got bored. He ended up starting his own business, and happy now working long hours a week, not for money, but for the need to be 'useful' I suppose, and he says the pleasure he sees on his customers faces when they collect his decorated cakes far outweighs any personal pleasures he got from his win.
We all have an instinctive need to have goals to reach, that - again I say - this recession can bring us all that 'feel-good' factor (sense of achievement) if we stop sitting back and moaning and get on with making the best of what we have. Certainly I enjoy every minute.

Maybe - in the past - having to scrounge 'free bones' from the butcher was something to be ashamed of, but today - this is worth boasting about, just to prove that something can be made from almost nothing. How times change. Being poor is now as as 'fashionable' as we can get. Let's make the most of it.

So many bits of paper littering my desk am hoping I've dealt with all the comments, so now moving onto what the trade mag has to say this week, and quite a few useful things for us 'consumers' I have to say.
Firstly Tesco has topped the list of the 'cheapest shopping basket' this week (but only by 1p compared to a couple of others).

New products are continuing to flood the market. A new range of 'pet treats' soon to be seen on the shelves. These being in 'quirky' shapes and flavours. Does the animal discriminate between one shape or another? But then it is not the creature who buys it. Again it is the customer that the product is aimed at. Do the manufactures think we are that gullible? Obviously so. And they are probably right.

Customers (apparently) are now wanting a higher quality of products on the shelves, with "fruit juices and smoothies, premium chocolates, and sales of ethnic/national foods, frozen foods and ice-cream" being mentioned as top choices. Quite a few of these can be made at home, so why don't we?

The good news that there will soon be an improvement in food labelling. The amount of added water (if above 5%) will now have to be specified, and we also have to be informed when any 'formed' meat or fish is sold. Am pleased about this, remembering the time several years ago when I bought a 'reduce price' frozen (and plump) turkey for Xmas, that was left in our cold porch to defrost. Later discovering the dish in which it stood was overflowing with water thawed from the bird, which had shrunk to almost a shadow of its former self. Barely enough meat on it to three, instead of the 6 - 8 that the original weight seemed to suggest.

Interestingly, one of the major supermarkets is "stripping large amounts of fat, salt, and sugar, from its own label products - due on the shelves in October - aiming to 'nudge' rather than force people into a healthier lifestyle."
If - as it seems - all these 'additives' can be reduced without shortening the shelf-life of a product, why was so much included in the first place? As B said "probably because these are cheaper ingredients, and if less were used the more of the more expensive would be needed". So it remains to be seen if we now are charged more for reducing the unnecessary. Of course we will be.

Another new product is cheese. Well not actually 'new', but this one with different flavours to be packed and marketed as a 'snack' - "a cheese that can be consumed between mealtimes". Thought the 'healthy' idea was we should stop eating snacks, and anyway should cheese be thought of as a snack (even though it might be 'healthier' than some others)? In the Goode household cheese is usually treated with the respect an expensive ingredient deserves: a protein food that takes its rightful place as part of a main main dish. (or perhaps with cheese and grapes as an alternative to dessert). Certainly, even in 'snack' form, it will probably be costly. If cheese is meant to be eaten 'between meals , then it would work out far cheaper if we cut the same weight from a block we have already, and 'make our own snack'.

When reading that "high lamb prices will be here to stay due to demand outstripping reply", this really says it all. We can get the price of almost anything down if - en masse - we stop buying it. We have only to see how some of meat cuts (like lamb shanks) that butchers used to almost give away because no-one wanted them, have now risen in price so much that they become almost level with the best cuts. Purely because they have become 'fashionable to eat'. Blame restaurants for that. Does that mean belly pork will soon share the same fate? All the cookery mags and cookery progs seem to be using it at the moment.

Seeing also that "fresh salad prices are remaining stable" (no increase over the last couple of months) and to me feel that just because they haven't risen in price makes this a good thing. The way I see it, at this time of the year salads should be at their cheapest, so are we now seeing the end of 'seasonal pricing".

One company (that doesn't deliver in our area) has come out tops regarding deliveries. Just had to smile when see they say: "new stay-at-home mums are our new demographic". Seems that when it comes to sales we are all pigeon-holed into one 'demographic' or another, every one to be targeted. Where do I fit in I wonder? Silly old git who has more money than sense? I don't think so.

Last week mentioned the FairShare scheme trialled by Sainsburys where customers were encouraged to 'buy one give one free' over a trial period last weekend. FairShare have reported back that they have been able to feed more than 60,ooo needy people due to this. The food donated was shared between 700 charities alongside fresh foods received directly from companies on a daily basis.
Not sure whether this free food is for people who live only in this country, or wether some was sent abroad to help (say)the famine in Africa (which would be of even more use). Let us hope some of it would have been. Either way a good way for us all to help others, even within our extremely tight budgets.

Just noticed a little comment on the back page of the trade mag. Apparently Young's have achieved a memorable victory as their frozen fish fingers have been being singled out by MPs as being the UK's greatest-ever invention. Can anyone top that?

Apparently one butter company has been giving free basil seeds with their packs. Not sure what the container looks like, possibly seeds set in something, so it can be planted directly into soil, as elderly folk have thought the packaged seeds were an 'edible cookie' and eating it. It is suggested that parents (and everyone else) reads the small print to make sure the seeds are sown as they were intended to be.
Just shows it doesn't matter how obvious things can be, we should always read the small print. Remind me to tell my Beloved he should always do this (for he would probably have eaten the 'cookie' as well).

On the home front, managed to transfer most of the meat from Boris to Maurice yesterday. Took more time than expected as I needed to write down everything (again), to make sure who has what. It was apparent that foods that had been frozen from 'fresh' were in far better condition when tightly wrapped in the correct freezer bags, than in (say) another type of plastic. Maurice is storing 'only the best' , the intention being that once full, the freezer won't be opened again for weeks (or even months). So far only the top drawer has been filled, today will be sorting out the fish, followed by later in the week (once the delivery has come) with the frozen veg, oven chips, and other frozen foods I deem 'necessary' to get us through the winter.

Gill told me today she would be coming to visit a week this Tuesday until the following Sunday, so must make sure that enough 'ready-meals' are frozen away to save me slaving over a hot stove whilst she sits waiting in here for me to return to play Rummicubs and Cribbage with her. While she is here she may be using this room as her 'bed-room', and so may not be able to write my blog during her stay (or if I do it maybe very short and published any old time).

Having thawed a piece of belly pork overnight, slow-roasted that yesterday (150C for 3 hours) for B's supper, served with new potatoes, some caramelised apple rings and peas. Still can't get the crackling as crisp as it should be, but the meat itself was extremely tender and (B says) very tasty.
Belly pork (from our butcher at least) is very cheap and so next week will be buying a large chunk to cut into smaller portions to freeze away. Yesterday's piece of pork was about 5" square and yet the whole meal worked out for less than £1.

Not that I bother much about the total cost of each portion each and every day, but if we work on a set amount of money per week to feed one person, as long as some days a meal works out under the average price, then this means more money can be spent on another.
Having said that, although not able to prove this on paper without hours of hard work (although this was done in the early months of this blog), it does seem that we can still (or at least B can) eat remarkably well on a budget of £12.50 a week (and as can feed four for half that, obviously not as difficult as it sounds). Think much of this is due to me not eating the same foods as B, far less meat, more home-grown produce at this moment in time, and also that I eat a lot less than B does, for I do not need to due to lack of exercise and of course - needing to lose weight. The older we are the less food we need anyway.
Of course I could spend less, but as I don't need to at the moment, why make more work for myself?

Despite good intentions, not a lot else was done yesterday other than reviewing the stock of food, making notes as to what needed replacing, and deciding what foods/meals can be cooked in bulk ready to freeze away in individual portions.
Having more room to freeze home-made stock will mean that certain dishes (such as soups, risotto, couscous etc.) will be able to be given more flavour. Ditto 'gravies'. It's little things like good stock that turn a mediocre meal into a really tasty (cheffy quality) plate of nosh. Costing less than the cheapest of stock cubes - which are always over flavoured and definitely over salted. Give me the real thing any time.

Today is very wet and very windy. B has gone 'off to sail' but doubts there will be any, in which case he will spend the day in the boathouse helping with more repairs to one of their 'safety boats'. He has no preference for supper, so I can make what I like. Probably thaw out a ready meal, or some previously cooked beef to make a casserole (this can sit happily over a low flame so he can have his supper anytime after his return). Really MUST try and get at least one batch of marmalade made, and possibly a Sticky Toffee Pud.
The ice-cream will have to wait as B forget to bring in fresh eggs as I requested (need the eggs to be as fresh as possible when using the whites for ice-cream and the yolks for lemon curd). Told him he'd now have to wait until I get some next week. His loss not mine.

Well it's now half-past noon, and definitely time for me to wind up for today. First thing to do is clear the conservatory (partly half-done) so that I have more space to put containers of salad leaves, radishes, spring onions etc. Still time to plant more, and the more we have to harvest the less money will be spent. Keep using the same compost over and over again, but by mixing in a few granules of plant food, and watering with added nourishment, and so far all grow well enough. As long as their needs are provided for, plants will grow happily in the poorest soil, sometimes only need water to dangle their roots in (this form of growing is called 'hydroponics'), so no excuses not to grow things if you haven't a garden, all you need is a container and water (and the right plant food). And a sunny windowsill. Unfortunately we can't always guarantee sunshine, but usually get enough light to grow things. If neither, then grow mushrooms. There is always something that will grow whatever the conditions.

Haven't even time to spell check/edit today, so aplogies in advance for mistakes. Please join me again tomorrow, and in the meantime, enjoy your own day. Bye for now. xxx