Saturday, August 13, 2011

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

However keen we are to start saving money by making what we might previously have bought (this applies to both food and non-foods), taking on too much can turn the whole thing into what seems like hard labour. Far better to begin making/doing just one thing, then - over the weeks/months - adding to it until quite a lot can be achieved without each becoming a burden.

Many 'foods' can be made in bulk (jam, marmalade, pickles etc) that take probably less than one hour to make enough to last a full twelvemonth. With a freezer, chicken, beef and other stocks can be made in bulk to be then frozen away in smaller containers, numerous desserts can be made and frozen, ready-meals also. A mention HAS to be made of cooking a large joint at home (beef, gammon, turkey breast....) for comments coming in are proving that this is a wonderful way of providing (and storing) a lot of sliced meat at very much lower cost than if bought over the counter.

Sairy mentioned the cost of pre-sliced beef, Woozy finds cooking gammon at home really worthwhile, and MimsyS is finding home-cooked ham far more tasty, has no added water and far less expensive. Have checked back on this site and see that the photos of the ham through various stages from raw gammon to the sliced, can be seen on the 30th July 2010 posting. Really worth taking a look at. Scroll down to the posting below and you will see a photo of a plate of fresh fruit that looks a gigantic portion but really is only a few fruits prepared and arranged in a special way. Another good(e) idea? Hope you think so.

It's not only ham where money can be saved. Beef also, and although topside is a good joint, myself am changing to silverside which is far cheaper, and when cooked slowly does give tender slices. If cooking to freeze or eat cold, always cool the cooked meats down and then wrap in foil and chill overnight in the fridge before slicing as this prevents the meat fibres 'tearing' when sliced.

Using an electric slicer means the thickness of the slices can be varied. Myself like to keep some slices thicker (as these eat better on a Cold Meat Platter), and thinner for sarnies. With beef, some of the slices are frozen in a good beef stock/gravy to re-heat and serve as we would a 'roast dinner'. Do this also with chicken, turkey and lamb. If intending to use a slicing machine, always make sure the meat is boneless (or get the butcher to removed the bone, then wrap the meat back round it so it can easily be removed after roasting - am suggesting this as meat cooked 'on the bone' has a much better flavour).

Chicken can only be sliced by hand, the breasts too small to be worth slicing on the machine, although find that buying a turkey crown, after roasting on the bone - the breasts once removed and clapped together are large enough to slice on the machine.
Normally bag up four slices of whatever meat is wanted to freeze. Can always thaw out more if needed, but usually four slices are enough for B and me at any one time. It is almost impossible to separate frozen slices of meat. If wishing to thaw rapidly at room temperature it works best if the meat is removed from freezer bag and place on a plate as this allows any moisture to evaporate. Leave them in the bag to thaw and they tend to come out 'damp'.
If thawing them in a bag in the fridge for several hours (or overnight), still worth removing from a bag once thawed and placing them on a plate to 'dry out' a bit.

Hope by now you have your new fridge-freezer Urbanfarmgirl. Perhaps like our 'Boris' you will find the motor is in the freezer section, so plan your storage to make the most of the room you have. I often decant half-empty bags of frozen vegetables into smaller square or oblong containers so there are no empty spaces around the bags (which so often happens).

Thanks Sairy for the info on picking pears early, not sure how early. Can ours be left on the tree to grow larger for a while? There must be something about harvesting in one of my many books (or even on the Internet), must remember to take a look.

Your mention Wen, of your parent's having the same money-box as mentioned yesterday reminded me of how in those days most wages were paid in cash. Remember myself getting the little brown envelope that was my 'pay packet', and always thrilled to open it and see 'real money' inside. Even though it wasn't a lot. Later Beloved got a 'salary' which was paid monthly, and think this went straight into his bank, he never told me how much it was, but just paid me my 'housekeeping' once a month. Because prices were pretty stable in those days B never did give me more, even when he earned more, but have to be thankful for that for once we had gone 'decimal' and prices rose, the children growing into teenagers and more money needed to be spent on their food and clothes, this forced me into learning how to be self-sufficient. Had I had a housekeeping 'rise' every so often, wouldn't have needed to do that, and so wouldn't have learned enough to sit here writing about it. Neither would I have done any TV/radio. Definitely that particular cloud in my life turned out to have a silver lining!

Shopping seemed so much easier in the 'old days' when we paid cash for everything. We knew exactly how much we could spend and no choice but to to keep within the amount. Today, credit cards have encouraged just about everyone to spend way beyond their limit and if the balance is not paid off, all we have to worry about is paying the interest which - over months/years - can double or treble the amount originally borrowed, yet without even paying THAT off.
True, I need little cash at the moment. Only for paying Norma the Hair and the window cleaner, and just a bit more in case I need something from the local shops. One cash withdrawal from the local hole in the wall will last me several months. Everything else (including credit card purchases - mainly grocery) is paid by direct debit and so incur no interest.

Yesterday my groceries were delivered in the pouring rain, so felt very sorry for the delivery man as he had to trot back and forth down our long drive to the van to bring in at least six (maybe more) crates of food. Normally I thoroughly enjoy all the unpacking, but as B was not here to unload from the crates, had to do that myself and had to have a sit down before starting to empty the numerous bags. Could have the foods delivered without bags, but it would take far longer to unload and in any case always save the bags and return them to the man with the next delivery (where they use them again).

Realised, when unpacking that I'd ordered TWO turkey roasts, and thought there had been a mistake, but then remembered that I'd ordered an extra one so that I could keep it in the freezer until Christmas. Beloved likes to take his holiday on the Tall Ships at this time, so there will be only me feed on Christmas Day, or (as in previous years) maybe another if one of our offpring joins me. Even if B chooses a different date for his hols, and decide to stay at home this Christmas, the roast will be more than enough for two (it should feed four), so with that in the freezer, plus frozen sausages and Brussels Sprouts now in the freezer), the pack of stuffing and a jar of cranberry sauce in the larder, all I then need will be to freeze away some breadcrumbs (for bread sauce) and to make sure there will be enough bacon (for bacon rolls), carrots and potatoes. So that's Christmas Dinner sorted. Even the Christmas Pud and mincemeat will have been made well in advance. The mad Christmas race to get everything bought in time has already been won.

Today I intend cooking one of the two turkey roasts and tomorrow - after it has chilled - will slice and freeze the meat. The next day should then be able to let you know the cost per 100g compared to buying pre-packed slices of turkey. Maybe will even take a photo of it. Have a feeling this will prove to be another good way to save.

Because most of the foods delivered were on offer, my bill was - give or take a penny - £20 less than if the normal price had been paid. Which was not bad considering there were no deductions for points this time - am saving these up for later in the year. Even so, this AGAIN means the bill is lower than the amount that used to be spent on food most months of last year. Considering prices continue to rise, is this because more offers are bought, or perhaps less food, or am I just getting my stores and purchases more organised right?

Yesterday, because B was out at the social club (and no doubt scoffing snacks there), he chose to have Cauliflower Cheese for his supper, finishing of the last piece of the chocolate cake with caramel sauce for pud.
When preparing the cauliflower, I kept the best leaves (not THAT many but a few more than usual), the core part and all the little stalks I could remove from the base of the florets. Weighed these 'discards' and they came to 1lb 2oz (500g)! Put them in the food processor a few at a time to blitz down to 'crumbs', and then put them in a pan, covered them with milk, added half a pint of water, a pinch of salt and plenty of black pepper, plus the rind from a piece of Stilton, and then simmered down until tender. By then the mixture was very thick, and today will pop it in the blender again when it will probably end up as a very thick puree. This will be frozen so that it can later be thawed, thinned down (and sieved if necessary) to make soup, or might even heat some of it up and add a little instant potato to make a sort of 'mash' that can be used as a topping for Cottage Pie, or served as a vegetable in its own right.
Certainly, tasting the mixture as it is at the moment, it has a lovely cauli and cheese flavour, so always worth using the outer leaves of produce (that might normally be discarded) when we can.

Earlier this week made a big and shallow chocolate cake. Part was used to make a tw0-portion pudding for B, another part will be used today when I assemble the Rigo Janski (the cream/chocolate ganache was made yesterday), and the rest turned into a Black Forest Gateau. All can be frozen so that will be several desserts made to serve over several weeks, these 'makings' - done over a few days - take hardly any time, so really no effort at all. Yet plenty to see for it.

Also yesterday - having run out of my pre-packs of flour, sugar etc, sat and weighed out another 12 x 4oz (100g) bags of self-raising flour, also of caster sugar. Today will top up my supply of 4oz packs of Stork marg and butter. Then the makings for a goodly number of cakes will be all ready and waiting (the eggs normally standing on a rack close by).
When starting from scratch, getting the flour out then weighing the amount needed, then putting the bag back into the larder, the same with the sugar, then weighing out the fats can take almost as much time when baking one cake as preparing all the 'pre-packs' as mentioned above. So we don't make extra work for ourselves when we do this, we end up using far less.

Doing one thing to save time (or money) each week is something to aim for. The more experienced we get and the more we have prepared, then we gain more time to save even more money. Maybe challenging ourselves to make/do something once a day for a week and see what has been achieved. Who knows, we might do two things a day that save money, or even three. All I can say is "go for it".

Very little needs to be done continuously. We can sow salads and vegetables, plant fruit bushes etc, and as long as we remember to water them, not a lot needs be done until they are ready to be harvested. We can take a few minutes greasing and lining all our cake and loaf tins so they are ready for use (another chore then not needed to be done when ready to bake). A month's supply of muesli can be put together in about five minutes max., and very few minutes of actual 'work' (plus an hour or two of letting it rise/bake all by itself) can get a fresh loaf baked every other day. Using a slow cooker means there is no need to clock-watch, which means one less thing to remember. Slow-cooked stewing beef can be frozen in some of its gravy to be added to veggies when making a casserole, and this really cuts down the time normally taken when cooking from scratch in an oven or on the hob. Today we really have to consider the cost of fuel as well as the cost of ingredients.

Other time-savers (mentioned several times in previous postings, but worth a reminder) are grating up a goodly amount of cheese (oddments of different hard cheeses work well), to store in the freezer to use whenever a recipe calls for it. We can make up our own crumble mix, scone mix, and pastry mix to also store in the fridge/freezer. Takes no longer to make in bulk than when we make a small amount, but this really saves time later.
Pizza bases can be made then topped with tomato 'pizza' sauce and frozen. Hopefully the grated cheese is also in the freezer, so the pizzas are ready to throw on a few more bits that we might have handy, cheese on top then straight in the oven to bake.

Today will naturally be spent in the kitchen and larder. There will be tins and packets to line up on the shelves, the remaining chocolate cake to assemble into the various desserts, maybe another batch of ice-cream will be made leaving me the egg yolks to make lemon curd. The turkey will be 'roasted', the blackberries removed from the Summer fruits pack to be stored in the freezer to used for pies later, with some of the remaining fruits used today to make individual Summer Puddings to freeze (one left unfrozen for B to eat tomorrow). The rest of the fruits left frozen to (probably) later add to apples etc to make jam.

There will also be supper to think about, not yet sure what it will be as certainly B has plenty of choice. Sometimes - on a Saturday - he makes his own (light) meal. As I ordered a sliced loaf to make the Summer Puds, B might choose to make a bacon sarnie using some of this bread, or maybe have sardines. He will then continue snacking throughout the evening. Might make him a trifle he can keep helping himself too, or let him have a slice of on of the chocolate desserts before being frozen. If there is some cherry pie filling left over after making the BFG, then could make B a cherry pie. So if I have to thaw pastry out to make a pie, might as well use some to make a quiche and some to make a Bakewell tart, the scraps can end up as cheese straws.
Looks like being a busy day!

Recipes today are for puddings. Normally we cook apples and blackberries together in a pie or crumble, so here is a different suggestion, and despite the ingredients isn't a suet pudding. But this is very tasty and also quite filling, so and if you have apples growing in your garden, and blackberries in nearby hedgerows, with the other ingredients being low-cost (AND it serves six), well worth making for those cooler days.'
Blackberry and Apple Pudding: serves 6
3 oz (75g) self-raising flour
pinch of salt
3 oz (75g) suet
4 oz (100g) white breadcrumbs
zest and juice of one orange
approx 5 tblsp milk
1 oz (25g) butter
1 large eating apple, peeled, cored and chopped
4 oz (100g) blackberries
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
4 fl oz (125ml) water
Sift the flour into a bowl with the salt, then mix in the suet, breadcrumbs, orange zest and just enough milk to make a soft crumbly mixture.
Melt the butter in a frying pan over low heat and fry the apples for five minutes or until softened. Add the contents of the pan to the suet mix then tip this into a 2 pint (1.2 ltr) dish. Level the surface - without pressing down - and sprinkle the blackberries on top.
Put the orange juice, sugar, and water into a pan. Heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then raise the heat to give a rapid boil and cook until the syrup is golden. Pour this over the blackberries/pudding and leave to soak for 10 minutes before baking at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 25 minutes.
Serve hot with pouring cream or custard.

As we have three ripe bananas that need eating up will probably make this next dessert for my Beloveds 'pud' tonight instead of the trifle. Have all the ingredients apart from the mangoes so will omit these, working on the theory that "what you've never had you never miss" (although might use more bananas or another fruit that is in the fruit bowl (apple, kiwi, or nectarine...). Do have a pineapple 'ring' in the freezer, so can chop that up instead of opening a can. Tend to always buy canned pineapple rings instead of chunks as - when drained - they freeze well (stored in bags), and even when frozen can be cut with scissors into smaller pieces. Useful for Chinese stir-fries as well as desserts. The canned juice is also frozen to use to add to fruit salads, or for making a sweet and sour sauce.
Hawaiian Crunch: serves 4
2 oz (50g) butter
4 oz (50g) rolled (or porridge) oats
5 tblsp demerara sugar
4 tblsp desiccated coconut
2 bananas, cut into chunks
2 ripe mangoes (opt) peeled and cut into chunks
1 x 225g pineapple chunks, drained
Remove half an ounce of butter and set aside. Melt the remaining butter in a large frying pan and stir in the oats with four tblsp of the sugar and the coconut. Stir-fry for 3 - 4 minutes until everything is crisp and golden, then tip into a bowl. Wipe the pan clean then replace over the heat adding the reserved butter.
When this has melted, add the bananas, mango (if using) and pineapple. Sprinkle over the reserved tblsp of sugar then cook over gentle heat for five minutes until the fruit has softened and begun to caramelise.
Spoon the fruit over four serving plates/bowls and sprinkle the oat mixture on top.
Serve with custard or cream.

Finishing early today as need lots of time to do all the jobs that I have planned to do (and what's the betting only a few get done). The trade mag has arrived but not yet read, so that gives me plenty to discuss tomorrow. Hope you'll join me then. Do have a good weekend and - if possible - spend a few moments making something that will keep you going for longer than that.

Returning to yesterday's mention of eclairs. There is also a photo showing the various stages of 'growth' of choux pastry when making profiteroles. This can be found on 26th May 2007. With also the recipe.