Wednesday, July 20, 2011

One Busy Day...

Have to say that yesterday turned out quite busy, and in some way productive. Even before I had written the last word of my blog yesterday and published, B called to say the Tesco delivery van was here - half an hour before the arranged 2 hour time slot. Same thing happened last time. Anyway - did a quick 'publish', then dashed to the kitchen to empty the bags (so that the delivery man could take away most of them). Then faced with putting away (as rapidly as possible) the frozen foods. Sensibly these (and the 'chilled') are always the last bags taken from the van's refrigerated section, so didn't have to sort through all the bags to find them.

Suffice to say our new freezer was barely large enough to take it all! That really surprised me, but of course (me 'doing a B') didn't realise that the very deep bottom drawer wasn't as big as expected due to the motor being behind it. Managed to fit it all in, other than the loaves of bread intended to be frozen. And absolutely no room in Boris to freeze the Sticky Pud and several tubs of ice-cream I had planned making yesterday.

However one really good discovery happened because of this problem. I sat and pondered what to do, and decided I would thaw the frozen 'summer fruits' bought, and make jam with them (that was why I bought them in the first place, planning to make the jam later in the year adding our own raspberries.
As these fruits were packed in deep boxes they did take up a lot of freezer space, and had bought three as on offer (3 boxes for £5) - each containing 1lb/450g.

When I opened the first box immediately noticed it was a mixture of blackberries,raspberries, red and black currants. The blackberries were an enormous size, and I decided to save these from the first box so they could be bagged up, kept in the freezer to add to apple pies made during the winter. Believe it or not there were 36 blackberries in the box (the same amount in all the boxes as it happened), so removed all and they are now in small bags in the freezer. Also they are so large that each can be chopped in half so they will look more when cooked.

This is the important bit... Regular readers may remember that when we moved here to Morecambe I was complaining bitterly that we no longer had blackberries in our garden that we could pick for free. True, there are plenty of blackberry bushes around the local countryside, but we found the fruits very tiny, and hardly worth picking, most of them being along roadsides that had a lot of traffic, so fume loaded. So ended up buying them from the supermarket. In the autumn of 2009 the blackberries worked out at 5p EACH! Same last year, and am pretty sure the price won't go down this.

So - faced with 108 frozen blackberries (each larger than those bought - mentioned above), an costing them at 5p each this came to an incredible £5.40p. Couldn't believe it, Double checked, then asked B to check and he came up with the same total. So had I BOUGHT the blackberries (as the fruits on their own) already had saved 40p, and because of their size must have gained extra weight.
Theoretically, I had now the blackberries and 'paid' less for them, leaving me with the rest of the frozen fruits that then had 'cost' me nothing at all. Well - of course I did pay £5 for the lot, but hope you understand my reasoning as to why it had turned out to be a very good buy.
As our own blackberries (planted last year) have really only just begun to establish themselves, this year would certainly have needed to buy more, so now I don't need to.

The frozen remaining frozen fruits were weighed, some home-grown (frozen) redcurrants added, and at least half of the strawberries (which I chopped) bought from Barton Grange (B and I ate the rest). Together the lot added up to 4lbs weight. Put into a large bowl with 4lbs sugar, these have been left overnight and today will be boiled together to make 'Summer Fruit Jam'. The cheapest 'good' jam we can buy these days is costly (the current price being a 340g jar (is that 12 oz?) for £1. And that's when on offer!!
Another proof that home-made is best.
Almost certainly, as it is Norma the Hair day today, will leave it to this afternoon to make the jam AND also the marmalade, so that will make enough for enough to last him the full year and beyond (there are still 10 jars of jam left from last year (mostly Damson). Leaving some to be given away. Proof, I hope, that it need only take a few hours to make a year's supply of many things.

You may be interested, you may not be (but I'll tell you anyway), the frozen foods bought were Oven chips; whole green beans (have bought seeds so from now on will grown our own); broccoli florets; garden peas and petit pois; lamb shanks (still great value at £5 for two considering they are already cooked in mint gravy); kipper fillets, packs of large and small cooked prawns; Summer fruits; and 2 packs of chicken livers. The latter a very worthwhile buy as they are only 43p a 225g/8oz pack. When it comes to meat protein, how cheap is that! One pack is enough for two people, and would also make several servings of chicken liver pate.
Also bought a 'turkey breast roast'. This came in a round shape (looking like a small gammon), weight 1lb, and cost £2.50p. The idea behind this is that it will be roasted, then sliced and frozen to serve with other sliced home-cooked meats (ham, beef...). Far cheaper than buying ready-cooked turkey or chicken in packs.

Although not really as good as our local butcher's sausages, B likes a certain brand that can be bought from the supermarket, and at a special price if 3 packs were bought, did buy 3. Opened the packs, then bagged the bangers up into bags - four in each, and froze those to 'keep us going' for the next few months.

Had to smile when Beloved said to me "think this lot should last a month, so don't order anything else from Tesco for a while". A MONTH! As I said to my dear Beloved, "this is meant to last until Christmas". Starting as I mean to go on, thawed a rump steak for B, which was pan fried and served with oven chips, battered onion rings, and some string beans (all came out of Boris). Strawberries and cream to follow.
Shortly after B got himself a tongue sandwich, and later he ate half a Vienetta he had bought himself. As ever - his main meal not being quite enough to satisfy him.
As normal, when faced with all that food, myself ate a 'lighter meal', consisting of an egg mayo sarnie (as I needed to use up some eggs, and hard-boiling them seemed the easiest option). Still some left so will probably use that to make another sarnie for lunch.
Will probably thaw out a ready-meal for B's supper tonight (just to gain a little more space in Boris).

Anyway - my grocery bill showed a saving of over £24 due to promotional savings/offers, and using points vouchers. So again my bill was down compared to this time last year.
Having just about stocked up enough to turn my larder, 'Boris' and 'Maurice' into the equivalent of a country grocers, can now begin to play both 'shop-keeper' and 'customer'. Bet your bottom dollar that when Tesco find I have stopped sending in a monthly order, they will do as they did previously - offer me £10 to start shopping with them again. If I wait even longer - the offer will probably go up. So another way to gain a bit more money (or spend less depending upon how you look at it) - become a 'missing' regular.

Even with the time that had to be taken trying to make space in Boris, preparing the fruits for jam etc, still managed to clear the rubbish from the conservatory (this mainly partly filled boxes that B had thrown torn up cardboard into - why he has to fill several boxes and not just on defeats me). Stamped my foot and asked B to take it all to the tip (along with all the excess packaging from the grocery delivery.
Sowed more seeds in pots and these are now arranged on the conservatory windowsill, covered with half lemonade bottles as a mini-greenhouse (even though it is summer, at the moment chilly). More seeds will be sown outdoors this week. Then - with any luck , and a bit more warmth - should manage to have enough fresh 'free' foods to harvest this summer and autumn, that should save a considerable amount of money.

Seems only a week ago that I felt desperately tired and could barely walk from the kitchen into the living room. Now I seem to have developed endless energy, and am beginning to believe that depression had set in as recently seemed to have had no goal or challenge, and now we've got the freezer, this has given me a new lease of life. Desserts, ready-meals all sorts of things made that can be frozen. All I need now is to find the space (think I've said THAT before). Also a sudden interest in growing more produce. Plus the rising fuel prices and other details that have proved we are below the poverty line, and this alone is a challenge to prove SOMETHING can still be done to turn these around to our advantage.

Had an email sent to me with details embargoed until today so couldn't mention it before. Apparently there are 4 million Brits who are prepared to pass off ready made food as their own.
Three-quarters of us cut corners, either cooking in one pan or using things like pre-chopped garlic/ginger.
Two million admit to cooking only frozen foods.
The full (and lengthy) article can be found on and, as they say, cutting corners is no bad thing. Few of us have the time to be bothered with making everything from scratch.

Although the above is primarily to promote certain 'prepared for you' foods, I myself - as you know - am quite happy to use a jar of curry sauce, or open a sachet of something (although HAVE stopped buying cuppa soups). We could say that cans of baked beans and chopped tomatoes are 'prepared' for us, certainly most of us use custard powder instead of making custard the 'correct way' (even James Martin prefers custard made from the powder) so let's realise that as we are now in the 21st century, we should allow some 'pre-prepareds'' onto our larder shelves. As long as the main ingredients of a home-cooked meal (the meat, fish, and most vegetables are 'fresh' - even if some ARE frozen because these are usually 'fresher' than most that are on sale), and we don't take the easier route of buying, heating and serving a full 'ready-meal' (for that matter who on earth would WANT to pretend these were home-made? I'd be ashamed), we should take advantage of being able to save those few precious minutes.

Your comments Kathryn, reminded me of when we first had our own house. I was continually moving the furniture round, and it made my husband so cross. Think perhaps we like to be able to walk almost blindfold to our favourite chair and throw ourselves into it, and when it isn't where we think it is - we begin to feel very insecure. Maybe its a girly thing. We don't mind when things change - men like things to stay the way they have always been.
Agree that Crabtree and Evelyn products are very good. B always used to buy one or two of their aftershaves(and think still has some as they do last a long time - but now he doesn't shave anyway so only dabs a drop behindh is ear when he is going to the social). I too like their perfume. My most favourite aftershave is Royall Lime (correct spelling), which was worn by a friend of ours who lived in Bermuda (where it is made), is very 'posh', very expensive, and he brought some for Beloved as a gift. Think possibly it can still be bought at Harrods but no-where else. Am sure mega-expensive, but Crabtree and Evelyn do a similar citrus one.

Expensive loo paper usually have more sheets to the roll, so again not as expensive as might first seem. At one time the number of sheets used to be on the packs of all, but not sure if this still happens. Some of the cheaper rolls are made with such thin paper that twice as much is needed at any one time - so again not as money-saving as might first seem.
You've managed to make great savings when it comes to the wine-kits Kathryn, another way we can all serve wine with a meal without breaking the bank.
Sorry you are having to change your pills, but no doubt for a good reason, and hope you soon manage to feel bright-eyed and bushy tailed again. With the school holidays almost upon us, am sure you will be able to relax more and take up more of your hobbies. How is the weaving going? Was it a Herdwick fleece you were given? They were talking about these on TV the other week - apparently the fleece is very coarse and 'suitable only for carpets' the farmer said. He gets paid 10p for each!!!
So weave the wool and knit or crochet yourself a rug. Or several rugs, then sew them together to make a carpet. Perhaps the fleece alone - when thrown on the floor and trampled on - would make a type of 'sheepskin rug' (without the skin bit - but you could glue on a backing).

Wen's comment regarding Kathryn's hobbies gives us food for thought. Yet - have found that (certainly when younger) it is amazing how much can be achieved in a small amount of time when we set our minds to it. Certainly most are not done each and every day, and time spent over the year need not be a lot on each. Take wine-making. Probably enough wine made in a single day to last a year (it tends to look after itself for a week or two at a time before the next thing needs to be done to it). Even when baking bread - hardly any time needs be spent on kneading - the hour or so waiting for the dough to rise is long enough to make a batch of marmalade to last a year.
When the sun shines we can go out and tend our crops, when it rains we can work indoors. We can also stop watching so much TV and use that time for more interesting and useful pursuits. There is always enough time to do most of the things we hope to do. At least from the self-sufficiency side of life.

A welcome and group hugs to Lynn who has just discovered this site. As to how we feel about Morecambe. My husband likes being here. It took me some time as my wish was to retire to Sheringham (due to memories of many years of happy family holidays there - and also love the bracing sea air on the East Coast). It was because of my daughter's wish that we should move to live near here (she lives in Lancaster) so she could 'look after us in our old age'. Bless.
Where we retire to depends much upon what we wish to do once there. When wishing to continue certain activities, then it is necessary to find out if these are available in the area in which we intend moving. With me - unfortunately - cannot now continue playing bridge. Neither do their seem to be any groups that I can join that would suit my 'hobbies' (but have to say limited in that respect due to mobility problems. Am sure there are some in Morecambe but not in our immediate area).
All can suggest is - if you are thinking about moving to Morecambe, then take a weekend break - not just during the summer when it 'appears' to be thriving, but also during the bleaker 'out-of-season' months when many of the shops (on the front) are closed, and there are few people walking about.
Myself find that Morecambe Bay is a bit boring to look at. The tide rapidly comes in, and then almost immediately flows out, leaving the sands visible for what seems like forever. Can't even walk on them as they are unsafe (quicksands), but there are beaches where sand has been 'imported' so that children have a safe place to play.
But this is me - I love to watch the sea, hearing it crashing over the pebbles (as in Sheringham) and smashing against the sea walls on windy days, sending spray over the prom, We are lucky in Morecambe if we see more than a few white horses when the tide is full. True, one day during this last winter the weather was round enough to send sea spray crashing against the prom and even reached across the path to the road, but sadly I missed seeing it.
Having said that, certainly where we live (the eastern edge of Morecambe - called Bare), really is a very pleasant place. Morecambe is joined to Lancaster (no more than 15 minutes drive to the centre), and this is a beautiful (and quite small) town to visit or even live. Very few new buildings built to spoil the charm of the original Georgian ones. Property too (esp in this region) seems considerably cheaper than that in other areas.
Regarding the weather. When rain is forecast in this region, more often than not it means over the Lakeland hills (which can be seen across the bay, nine miles away). Morecambe itself does get rain of course - but not nearly as much as Cumbria, and it has gone on record that Morecambe is the sunniest place in Britain.
We certainly do have lovely weather (at times) and it rather pleasant to drive along the sea-front and to other scenic areas (of which there are many) whilst bathed in glorious sunshine yet see the rain falling heavily the other side of the bay.
This is very much a 'retirement' town, and all facilities bear that in mind. There is quite a lot of free parking along the front (at least on the road-side at our end) whether elderly or not, and free parking (in car-parks) for those displaying a 'blue badge' card. Several supermarkets allow mobility scooters to be used inside, and the food served in many of the smaller cafes is particularly good.

Not sure whether you've lived here all your life Eileen, but what are your thoughts about Morecambe that might help Lynn in making a decision?

Loved the sound of your cook-in in preparation of your mother's visit Woozy. Having her meals cooked for her will be very much enjoyed I am sure. It doesn't matter how much we have cooked for our family in the past, once on our own, few of us feel it is worth bothering any more, so a real treat to have a home0cooked meal again - especially when cooked by someone else.

As time is limited this morning (Norma arriving shortly), have time only to give a few plum recipes today. Will try and give more another day.
Plum Cake: serves 10
5 oz (150g) butter
5 oz (150g) caster sugar
3 eggs
3 oz (75g) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 oz (100g) ground almonds
2 oz (50g) walnut pieces
1.2 lb (500g) plums, stoned and quartered
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs. Sift the flour and baking powder together, and fold this into the creamed mixture with the ground almonds and walnuts.
Spoon mixture into a greased and lined 9" (23cm) cake tin, and scatter the plums on top. Bake for 40 - 45 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until golden (and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean). Cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a cake airer to cool completely.

Although have given this recipe before, it is worth repeating:
Plum Chutney: makes 5 x 400g (14oz) jars
3.5 lb (1.5kg) plums, stoned and halved
1lb 1ooz (750g) onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
5 oz (150g) raisins
1.75 pints (1 ltr) red wine vinegar
1lb 10 oz (759g) soft dark brown sugar
zest and juice of 1 orange
2 sticks cinnamon
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tsp salt
Put the plums into a preserving pan with the onions, garlic, raisins and vinegar. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
Stir in the sugar and when dissolve, add the orange zest and juice, cinnamon, rosemary and salt. Stir well, then simmer gently for an hour or more until very thick (and the spoon leaves a path when drawn across the base of the pan). Remove cinnamon sticks, then pot up into hot, sterilised jars, seal and store.
This is good eaten with cold meats and cheese.

Plum Bread and Butter Pudding: serves 4
1.75lb (800g) plums (stoned)
2 tblsp water
6 slices medium to thin cut white bread
2 oz (50g) butter
2 eggs
4 fl. oz (125ml) cream
1 oz (25g) caster sugar
half tsp ground cinnamon
1 tblsp demerara sugar
Put the plums in a saucepan with the water and simmer until just tender (takes about 10 minutes), then spoon into a baking dish.
Remove crusts from bread, and spread the slices with the butter. Cut each into four triangles and arrange on top of the plums, pressing down lightly.
Beat the eggs, cream, sugar and cinnamon together and pour over the bread. If possible leave for at least 10 minutes so the bread can soak it up. Sprinkle demerara sugar on top, then bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 20 minutes until golden.

That has to be it for today, as later than expected. Hope you find time to join me tomorrow. See you then.