Sunday, July 24, 2011

Reviewing the Situation

Pleased to know that our small TV set will take DVD discs without the need for an aerial. Although Les, it doesn't already have any DVD equipment fitted to it. Know that Scart leads are not expensive, neither are digi boxes but we don't really NEED another TV to watch - there are few new programmes on these days to make TV worth watching at all. Having a DVD means that if either of us is confined to bed or wishes to watch DVDs (we have LOADS of these that came free with our newspaper), then we have the opportunity. Also it makes use of the small TV.

Regarding your bread Les. Some bread machines ask that we put the yeast in first, the flour second and the water last, others need it the other way round, or maybe sugar in one corner, yeast in another, salt in another etc. Always use the instructions that came with the machine. Can't myself see why it matters for as soon as switched on the paddle mixes the lot together anyway, but possibly if set on a time to bake later, then it would be important or the yeast may start working before it should.

Problem with blogger again. It did not publish my blog and the rest that was written was not saved in draft. Only the above saved. Hopefully this will publish, and have to catch up with the rest tomorrow.

You got some great bargains Stephanie from Sainsbury and Tesco. Is Saturday the best time to find the bargains in the supermarkets? Presumably late afternoon?

Lovely to hear that you are now gathering produce from your garden Urbanfarmgirl. It really does give a good feeling knowing you are eating what you have grown yourself, let alone the financial saving it makes.

News from the trade mag this week is that "sugar prices are set to increase as EU production and rocketing global prices". If I read it correctly, new deliveries arrive in October, so this should see the start of higher prices (although the supermarkets may still squeeze their own margins (for a while). Those who make preserves would be wise to stock up with sugar now. Kept in dry conditions, sugar keeps for virtually ever.

Higher sugar prices means sugar products: jam, marmalade, cakes, biscuits, sweet drinks, chocolate, ice-cream... will probably also rise in price.

Asda is back in first place for the cheapest shopping basket, although considering what the 33 items are each week (the same for all the stores, but different each week) don't take much notice when I see that one supermarket was close because it gave a massive saving of £1.37 on a shower gel, which dramatically brought down the total cost of their 'basket'.

Shower gel does not appear often in my shopping basket, neither (all on this weeks 'list') does Ardennes pate, bagels, dishwasher tablets, eclairs, peppered steak slice, Hobnobs, pomegranate, salami, sweet potatoes, squash, and Kettle chips. Other things such as milk, onions, corn flakes, ketchup, bread and a few other things are pretty standard, but in no way do I think the full list represents what people normally buy. Or is it me that lives on another planet?

A re-vamped soup will appear on the shelves - the vegetable soup containing from 50% and 70% vegetables. Am wondering what the remaining percentage is made from. Certainly not good stock for it is an 'instant' (dry) soup.

All-Bran is now to target younger women rather than "the elderly with digestive problems". Ah bless, never realised they were caring for us pensioners before. Anyway it's now going to "re-positioned as an 'everyday digestive breakfast solution' for women aged 35 and over". Makes it sound really tempting doesn't it?

Personally feel that All-Bran is - and has always been - an excellent cereal, so not trying to put off anyone buying it. It's just to show how many manufacturers come up with new ideas to try and secure more sales.

Another little gimmick is that one major supermarket is now siting its wine aisle next to the fresh produce to "capitalise on the rise in popularity of scratch cooking and dining at home". What do they mean by "scratch cooking?" I asked myself, thinking 'itchiness'. Oh, yes - they must mean cooking from scratch. So that's becoming a new and popular way to cook is it? Oddly enough, it probably is. It's only us 'oldies' who seemed to continue cooking this way. But at least it's making a come-back.

Beef prices still to remain high for the foreseeable future, according the latest forecasts. At the moment still rising according to another. Where will it all end?

Part of this week's trade mag is given over to the advertising and promotions to do with the Olympics. No interest to me, so skipped reading that for the moment. What DID interest me was the feature on the 'lunchbox'. Sales of 'lunchbox' foods continually rise and "convenience and enjoyment have overtaken health as reasons behind lunchbox consumption, prompting brands to target adult consumers with innovative new products and formats.'

I grieves me to read that "adult consumers are also buying into the more traditional pre-packed sandwich meat section, which is worth more than £1.5bn in value and growing by 5.9% year-on-year" (the pre-packed part giving me the grief). Surely people could make sarnies to take to work instead of buying them.

Worth noting that "corned beef is showing value decline, but turkey, ham and pork have standout performances....and there is a trend to smaller pack sizes for cooked meats". Doubt very much that the price of packed cooked meats will be lowered in proportion. Another proof that if we cook/slice/freeze our own ham, turkey, beef and slice chilled corned beef from tins - to use for sarnies - we can save a fortune.

In order of highest first, the percentage of cooked meats, sandwiches, fruit, cooked meats, crisps, cheese in lunchboxes has risen. Salads just 1%, and canned fish, yogurts and cakes, biscuits, chocolate has gone down.

Of course a few new products are advertised. We can now buy Spam Sticks to either be oven-baked or eaten cold - these "to target lunchboxes and sharing occasions".

Considering our tap water is pure enough to drink, why on earth anyone would pay 49p a small bottle for 'spring water' to put in a child's lunchbox. Surely they would prefer fruit juice diluted with water? But then the manufacturers "noticed a gap in the market for a 100% lunchbox-compliant product appealing to children and adults alike". Mind you, the label has Bob the Builder on it so it is bound to tempt the small-fry.

Unfortunately not all plastic bottles can be re-used or I'd be tempted to suggest buy one of the above, then once emptied, fill the bottle with tap water - bet the child would not notice the difference.

Here's another lunch-box foodie that should make us think twice - or even thrice. Aimed at small families (and lunchboxes) a pack of 6 x 20g cheddar cheese portions can be bought for £1.49p rsp. OK, a fun picture on the front that will attract both adults and children and marketed because "Parents want to provide their child with a healthy snack that they will actually want to eat, while children want something fun". Nothing wrong with that, but the way I see it, this 'lunchbox' cheese works out at around £1.50p for 120g (that's not much more than 4 oz total). Certainly would be cheaper to buy the same cheese in a block and cut it into 20g portions yourself. Work out the difference in cost for yourself.

There are always people who can afford to buy rather than do anything themselves, but many who buy often don't realise just how much more we pay for something that has been prepared by someone else. Always we should remember that all the overheads incl. packaging and advertising all have to be accounted for when manufacturing any product, and the price we pay includes this. Why pay good money for something we can't eat? The more we can do or make for ourselves, the less money we need to spend.

As I don't go 'out' to work, it is easy enough for me to say this. Others may feel that if they can earn £5 (or more) an hour over a full working week there is no time to prepare meals from scratch, and the money they earn will pay for 'someone else to do it for them'. Nothing wrong with that either, it's just there are times - such as the above - when it is just as easy to cut a slice of cheese from a block than buy it ready packed.

Manufacturers are always out to try and make us pay for something that is easy enough to do ourselves. Remember the little jars of raw (shelled) eggs that used to be on sale 'to save us breaking an egg'. People actually began to buy this product, until they realised how silly all this was and reverted back to buying shelled eggs, resulting to the 'new product' soon disappearing from our shelves. Myself (in the past) have been tempted many times by 'new' products, and after tasting them (then comparing costs if home-made) wished I hadn't. Can't now remember what they were, but none have been worth buying.

Whether with food, kitchen appliances or any other DIY 'stuff', there is always something new. I would LOVE to have a machine that 'vacuum seals', or one of those 'all in one gadgets that does EVERYTHING - from mixing, stirring, blending, steaming, frying, baking, roasting...). But I've managed for half a century of cooking without the need, so suppose I can last out the rest of my life without them. It's not as though they will improve my cooking. They are just there to save time.

Once we save too much time, feel that cooking can become rather impersonal. To sling everything into an appliance and it does everything for you makes me begin to feel obsolete. I prefer to handle food (with forks, tongs, and fingers) throughout the stages of cooking, then I keep control. Also like the aromas that waft up when a lid is removed or the oven door is opened.

The way I save time is - as said before - by pre-weighing ingredients (flour, sugar, fats etc) and bagging them up to save time when baking for instance. Still have the pleasure of mixing them together without the boring part. It's surprising how much time preparing foods/ingredients can take. Jamie Oliver could never make his meals in 30 minutes without all the 'prep' being done first.

Busy day today - baking, tidying up, more tidying up, more baking, and even more tidying up! Only tomorrow and Tuesday morning to get the place spick and span before Gill arrives. Have to sort out both sides of Boris to make more room in case Gill comes loaded with food from her fridge (as she always does) - believing it won't keep for the few days until her return - then she doesn't eat it and takes most of it back home with her again!).

Another glorious day by the look of it, so really MUST try and grab half an hour sitting on the garden bench. Never did get around to it yesterday. Discovered the tall tomato plants in the greenhouse were toppling over with the weight of the tomatoes, so had to put in more poles and tie them back up. Plenty of toms on the plants but all green (with the exception of the 'Tumbler' which tends to ripen faster than the rest). Gill doesn't like raw tomatoes (but will eat 'cooked' toms when in meals), so don't really need that many while she is here.

Not yet 8.30 but will take my leave as every minute counts. With luck could get most of the 'tidying' finished by today, leaving with with tomorrow to do the final cooking. B will be out having a late sail this afternoon, so his supper will almost certainly be cold meat and salad waiting on his return. As B got his own supper yesterday (as he was also out during late afternoon) think this was tongue sarnies, something on toast, and more sarnies of something followed by packets of crisps and bars of chocolate. Not particularly healthy eating, but once in a while won't hurt I suppose. He eats well enough other days.

Next week - with Gill here - will probably take a few days off from writing my blog to enable me to spend all my time with her (she really gets annoyed when I sit and write my blog - in any case, she may decide she prefers to sleep in here rather than in the other room), but will be back tomorrow and Tuesday as per usual, then returning the following Monday (unless Gill decides not to visit after all - in which case I will let you know).

Until tomorrow - make the most of today and hope you find time to drop me a line. TTFN.