Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cutting Costs Can be Fun!

Many thanks for your comments. Reading them really lifts my spirits - a good start to my day.

Interesting that your husband Lisa, is about the only one (of your family and friends) who prefers to BUY socks, rather than wear the home-knitted. Mind you, many socks (not wool) can be bought cheaply these days. Doubt I could be bothered to knit socks for B (unless of course he was very appreciative - and he doesn't know the meaning of the word!).
Your family birthday 'festivities' sounds fun, but what is a 'hoagie lunch'?

Urbanfarmgirl too is having a go at knitting socks. Again wonder if it is worth the trouble in today's world, but when I read the brochures that come through the door, it does seem that pure wool anything (including socks, hats, scarves, gloves) cost more than their weight in gold. So 'home-knitteds' like 'home-cooked cakes, preserves' etc., are now something only the wealthy can afford to buy. Note 'to buy'. We lucky ones can (hopefully) make all these ourselves for the same price (or less) than the cheapest, tacky stuff on sale.

Incidentally, not being very conversant with 'computer-speak', what do all initials used stand for? DI, DS, etc. Sometimes do shorten my family's names to S.I.L (son in law), and suppose M.D. could mean 'middle daughter'. At least do know that O.H. means 'other half'.

Growing up in a thrifty family seems to have worked for you gillibob. Yet being brought up in a similar way has made your husband more aware of what he has missed. Perhaps this ia a 'man thing'. Myself was lucky enough to grow up 'comfortably', with enough 'pocket money' to be able to buy clothes I wanted. Initially did not go out to work, so spent a lot of time playing tennis and riding horses. Completely spoilt some would (rightly) say.
However, having money did not make my mother and father happy, there were often arguing which then led to days/weeks of them not speaking (I had to go back and forth passing messages from each to the other), and - perhaps luckily - have found that true happiness comes not from having what I want on a platter so to speak, but actually working hard to keep my head above water - which is what happened once I married a man who earned very little money, and we had three children born within three years!

Suppose the way we view our life is much to do with attitude. My mother (however much she had) would see her glass as always less than half-empty, whilst my life (once leaving home) seemed (at times) to be more than half-full. I've always been an optimist. It is true, sometimes I do get a bit fed up, but this never lasts long.

Good to know there are instructions 'out there' for knitting socks on two pins Rachel. Believe only experienced knitters can handle the four-pin method. Circular needles aren't much good for socks as these are meant for holding many stitches that are not necessarily knitted 'in the round' but could also be knitted in the normal way - from side to side.
As you say, most men seem to be grumpy, and quite honestly have found that when I've met 'cheerful' men, feel they are a bit lightweight. Possibly make good companions when wishing for a good time, but not necessarily 'husband material'. Maybe I just go for the wrong kind.

Do remember Dorothy Sleightholm ("Farmhouse Kitchen") Susan G. There used to be several cookery programmes (also sewing and painting progs) presented by 'unknown' ladies, who have now disappeared from our screens (and probably memories - and I'm almost certainly on that list).
Despite my new 'challenge' of working through my present stores, will certainly be re-stocking before the New Year. Am just hoping that if I can hold out until then, Tesco will be offering m loadsa money vouchers to encourage me to start buying from them again. This has happened before (when I've held off a few months - mainly due to a 'challenge'), and see no reason why it can't happen again.

Sairy, your mention of Hardup Hester's grandma keeping three of everything is very similar to my (initial) approach. My aim always was (and still is) to have 'one in use', 'one in store', and 'one back-up'. So when the first was used up, the one in store was brought out to use, and the back-up would then be the last on the shelf.
Nowadays, with many products being sold in 'four-pack', do tend to buy these (and sometimes more when on offer) so end up with as many as 12 cans of baked beans on the larder shelf.
Generally though, as soon as my stocks run down to two (or - horrors - one) of something, then I replace a.s.a.p. At the moment will probably allow myself to run out of something, but only because I will have something similar to take its place. Canned fish can be sardines, pilchards, salmon, tuna.... so as long as I have only one can of 'fish' left, it doesn't matter which it is.

We have a new reader who left no name (not even an Anonymous), but a big welcome and group hugs to you, whoever you are. Next time you write (and I hope you do) please give us a name, then I can reply to you personally.
Am sorry you have mobility problems (having them myself do realise how limiting this can be), and also appreciate the financial difficulties you must have providing meals for two grown up sons who live with you (as well as visiting family). All the recipes on this site are (unless otherwise stated) economical, and when meat is used I do aim to use as little as possible to make it go further.

Another new name, so a welcome to Campfire. Perhaps you were thinking of 'Pebble Mill at One' (Midland TV you mentioned), for I did appear on this regularly as a cost-cutting-cook. Being a 'live' show, this was always fun to do, for there was always a chance things could go wrong, or because the previous person on the show 'over-ran' and I had less time to cook that was originally allowed (but still had to make whatever it was from start to finish and edible!).
Another programme filmed in the Midlands (at the OU studios at Milton Keynes) was 'Bazaar', where I also was a regular cook-presenter (along with others) for several years.

With so many blogs now running (thousands on the thrifty way of life), starting a new one probably needs a good title to get it onto the 'right' lists. Myself feel that 'Taste the Goode Life' gives no indication that cookery is involved, which is why I'm starting another in the New Year that is more 'professional' and will deal only with food (cost-cutting recipes, hints and tips). This blog will stay much as it still is, but the other will give more useful money and time-saving 'info' with each recipe, and each will have a photo of the dish as made in my kitchen.

That's the comments now replied to. Beloved has just brought me the trade mag for this week, and this will be closely read today and commented on tomorrow.

Yesterday decided to start working my way through my 'stores', and decided to make myself a chilli-con-carne from 'Beanfeast' (a veggies version of chilli - made with TVP). Used to make this years ago, and only recently found this was still on sale at Morrisons. Although not done yesterday, adding a little 'real' beef mince steak when making the meal gives it more 'mouth appeal' to meat-eaters, for with chilli, it is not the meat we taste but the spices, and so by adding more 'texture' tougher meat, we can make ourselves believe it is made with all meat. Certainly a much cheaper way to make the dish than by using all meat.
Although the Beanfeast chilli does include red beans, there are not that many, so added another can of (drained) beans when making it up, and then was able to freeze the surplus to eat at other meals.

Decided to eat the chilli with pasta (to make the dish more substantial), and discovered a - so far unopened - pack of Farfalline in the cupboard over the kitchen units (packs of pasta are kept in the kitchen rather than in the larder). Farfalline is/are tiny ovals of pasta that have been nipped in the middle to look like teeny weeny bows. They take only 4 - 5 minutes cooking time, and perfect for adding to home-made soups etc. Having cooked some yesterday, after draining and adding a knob of butter then tossing with a handful of grated Parmesan, ended up folding them into the chilli as they were not really 'substantial' enough to serve on their own as would pasta penne, or fusilli, or other large pasta shapes and ribbons.

As Beloved is beginning to improve, today am making a type of cassoulet. Already have some home-baked beans, and to these will add some sausages, chicken breast, and a piece of gammon if I can find it (its in the freezer somewhere).

This weekend must also start making some biscuits, flapjack etc to hand out to the Trick or Treaters on Monday evening. American muffins will be made on Monday afternoon as they need to be eaten as fresh as possible.

Weather has been lovely over the past few days. So good yesterday that B tottered into the living room, weakly (and huskily) asking me if I'd like to go out for a drive as the weather was so nice, but I declined as it didn't seem fair to 'use him' in this way when he was obviously so poorly. But seemingly not that ill, for he suddenly improved early evening when he decided - after all - he was well enough to go to the sailing club social, although he did return home earlier than he normally does (which is usually after midnight). This morning he said he is 'improving slowly', so hope he is now on the mend.
All I hope is that I don't come down with what he had. If I do, it will be this afternoon, for it normally takes exactly 3 days to the hour after catching a bug for the symptoms to arrive, and B arrived home mid-afternoon on Wednesday. He probably picked up the bug mid-Sunday afternoon when he stopped at a service station en route to Bristol.

Normally, when 'about' to be ill, almost always feel particularly well beforehand. This I believe is due to my body already priming its immune system to fight the 'invader', and as I don't feel any different at the moment, and hoping nothing untoward has entered my system. Just have to wait and see.
This has reminded me of something a friend once told me. She said she never ate oranges, because always the day after eating one she would come down with a cold. What she didn't realise was that she already had the cold 'germs', and the reason she wanted to eat an orange was because her body was 'asking' for her to eat it as this fruit contain Vit C - which would help fight the virus.
In much the same way I get a craving to eat raw and very strong onions (which I normally would never do) when I have just started with a cold and especially a sore throat. Anyone who has done this in similar circumstances will know that very rapidly after eating onions, this 'loosens' the cough/cold and a box of tissues should be placed close to hand as our sinuses clear themselves out within minutes. The sore throat also seems to be helped. Due I believe to the sulphur in the onions. Nature seems to provide almost everything we need to cure our simple illnesses, or at least ease them, and although our ancestors seemed to know this by trial and error, it is only recently that we have been able to prove this scientifically.

Just noticed on the cover of the trade mag: "as petfood sales fall for the first time, how cash-strapped Brits re doing without their dogs". Will read the article(s) later today, but even these few words are enough to make me/us realise how far we have gone since my parent's day when cats were fed on fish heads/trimmings, and dogs on horsemeat, tripe or meat not fit for human consumption. Despite being on our beam ends regarding income, we did have a dog (and a very hungry Labrador at that), and it was never a problem to feed her (she would eat anything - even apple fallings from the tree, and any apple cores our children left around she would also eat), and give her free huge knuckle bones from the butcher (which were either left whole or halves, and she would gnaw down and remove/eat all the marrow), free meat scraps from the same source to add to the cheapest canned dog food, plus any 'leavings' from the children's plates. Even made the dog biscuits occasionally.

Unlike most humans, dogs are not that fussy about the food given them (but of course it has to be meat. What many non-meaters (who prefer their pets also to be vegan) don't realise is that the animal's body has been genetically engineered for eating meat. We omnivores can deal with either vegetables or meat or both. To deprive a carnivore of meat is downright cruelty.
When it comes to cats (also carnivores) it does seem - from comments sent - that cats are extremely picky. All I can say is - like children - when it comes to cats and dogs, start as you mean to go on. What they have never had, they should never miss. Give 'em a treat and then that's what they start to demand. And this can prove costly.

When it comes to human food, how lucky we are that we are happy with almost any on our plate - as long as it tastes good. Even luckier that many ingredients that - when put together give us pleasure - are NOT expensive at all. So no reason why we can't eat well and keep our purses padlocked at the same time.

It's not easy to give recipes that fit into a really frugal life-style, but whenever possible give recipe that work our really cheaply AS LONG AS WE HAVE THE INGREDIENTS IN THE FIRST PLACE. Sounds more expensive than it may be, for am thinking about using up the odds and ends that we might have bought, and otherwise might chuck in the bin. Here are some examples.

This first recipe is for those who might have a few mushrooms left they wish to find a use for. Ideally use chestnut mushrooms (they are firmer and more 'meatier') and also always worth having a pack of dried porcini mushrooms in the larder, for a few of these also will improve the flavour. Otherwise just use the normal 'white' mushrooms.
Other advantages of this recipe is that it is a vegetarian 'pate' and can be made in advance to keep in the fridge for a few days. Useful to make to serve either for family as a snack, or to guests as a starter. A good one to consider for Christmas when we like to offer something a bit different.
Mushroom Pate: serves 8
9 oz (250g) butter, softened
1 onion, very finely chopped
1 - 3 cloves garlic (to taste) crushed
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 oz (25g) dried porcini mushrooms, soaked
8 oz (225g) chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped
1 tblsp brandy
juice of 1 small lemon
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
Melt 2 oz (50g) of the butter in a pan over low heat and saute the onion until very soft, then stir in the garlic and thyme and fry for a further minutes. Drain the soaked porcini mushrooms and chop finely, then add these - together with the chestnut mushrooms - to the pan, tossing so that everything becomes coated in the butter. Raise the heat and cook for about 7 minutes until the mushrooms are soft, the add the brandy and lemon juice and simmer for a couple or so minutes until all the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and add the parsley and seasoning to taste. Remove the sprig of thyme, and leave the mixture to cool.
When cooled, work in the remaining softened butter, then divide between several small ramekins, cover with cling-film and place in the fridge where it will keep for a couple of days.
Serve spread on hot toasted bread, with a side dish of crispy mixed salad leaves.

Bread sauce is traditionally served with turkey on Christmas day, but it can also be served with roast chicken at any time of the year, and a good way to 'bulk' out a meal. Even one chicken breast, wrapped in bacon and roasted, served with one sausage, a spoon of cranberry sauce and a dollop of bread sauce plus some Brussels sprouts, a scoop of mashed spuds and a couple of roast potatoes (roasted with the chicken) is as near enough to a Christmas dinner to make it work making just for one (or two).
Worth now crumbing up stale bread to freeze for later making bread sauce (or use for other dishes), or make the bread sauce now and freeze it ready to thaw in the fridge on Christmas eve to heat up on 'the day'.
Tip: spread fresh crumbs out onto a baking sheet and leave at room temperature during the day to 'dry out' slightly. This way they will absorb more of the liquid and you end up with a thicker 'sauce'.
Another tip: when infusing the onion in the milk, after removing the onion, chop this finely and add to the stuffing (this could be home-made or a bought packet of 'dry'), or use in another dish such as soup, casserole etc.
Bread Sauce: serves 8
1 large onion
6 whole cloves OR...
...2 blades of mace
6 whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves (opt)
half pint (300ml) milk
4 oz (100g) fresh white breadcrumbs
1 oz (25g) butter
salt and pepper
nutmeg (opt)
If using cloves, stick these into the onion. Place the onion into a saucepan with the peppercorns (and mace if not using cloves), bay leaves and milk. Bring up to the simmer (just about to boil), then turn out the heat and leave to infuse for at least an hour, then remove the onion, spices, bay leaves etc (sieving is the easy way to do this).
Put the 'flavoured' milk into a saucepan, stir in the breadcrumbs and bring to the simmer. Add the butter, seasoning to taste and a wee grind of nutmeg if you wish. Depending on how thick you want your sauce to be, you may wish to add more milk (or more breadcrumbs ). Serve as soon as made in a bowl for everyone to help themselves, or it can be cooled and stored overnight in the fridge to reheat in the microwave OR can be chilled and then frozen in a container and stored for a few weeks until needed.

Here is another dish that also uses breadcrumbs and almost a savoury version of 'treacle tart'. This recipe is very adaptable as there are many seasonal vegetables that can be used at this time of the year. Use the ones suggested, or replace one (or more) with turnip, sweet potatoes, carrots etc.
This is another dish that can be prepared ahead and either chilled in the fridge to bake the following day (or even a day later), and part or all can be frozen for up to a month (defrosted before baking).
Root Vegetable Bake: serves 8
1 lb (500g) swede, peeled and cut into chunks
1 lb (500g) parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
1 oz (25g) butter
4 tblsp golden syrup
8 oz (225g) fresh breadcrumbs
2 eggs, lightly beaten
salt and pepper
1 tblsp light olive oil plus 1 tblsp melted butter
Cook the swede in plenty of boiling water for 3 minutes, then add the parsnips, and cook for a further 12 minutes or until tender (if using other root veggies, cook those that take the longest first, and add others according to the time they need so they all end up cooked through at the same time).
Drain the vegetables and leave in the colander to steam off the surplus moisture before putting into a bowl. Mash with the butter then stir in the syrup, 6 oz (175g) of the breadcrumbs and the eggs. Season generously then spoon into a baking dish, levelling the surface.
Toss the remaining breadcrumbs with the oil and melted butter then scatter this on top of the mashed roots. (At this point the dish can be chilled for up to 48 hours before baking, or can be frozen for up to a month. Defrost before baking).
To bake/serve: bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for approx 40 minutes or until very hot and the top is crispy and golden.

All too often we stick with familiar recipes when we bake cakes or desserts, and miss the chance of using what I call 'jig-saw' cookery, this is where part of one ingredient is kept to use in another dish, instead of it all in the one 'making'. Eggs are a perfect example. Yolks in one dish, whites in another.
Very often, when frying eggs (especially when large), we can break one egg into the pan then add only the yolk of the next egg to the white already in there (always enough white to hold two yolks). This saves an egg white which can be used to whip up and fold into a dessert, or to make meringues, soft-scoop ice-cream etc. As egg whites can be frozen, then why not save one any time we can?

Here is a recipe for a dessert that uses only egg whites. The yolks could be used alone (or with whole eggs, to make quiches, omelettes, lemon curd, scrambled eggs etc, so almost two for the price of one. Easy enough to make a smaller amount - just halve the ingredients. Please note the mixture can be made (then chilled) for up to 2 days before being baked.
Spiced Friands: makes 10
7 oz (200g) butter, pref unsalted
6 egg whites
3 oz (75g) plain flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
half tsp ground ginger
7 oz (200g) icing sugar
5 oz (140g) ground almonds
First clarify the butter by melting in a saucepan, then heating until frothing and just beginning to brown. Pour through a sieve into a small bowl, and discard the 'solids'. Then - using a little of the melted butter - grease 10 holes of a muffin tin.
Whisk the egg whites until just frothy, then sift the flour, cinnamon, ginger and icing sugar together into the egg whites, folding this in with the ground almonds and the remaining melted butter. Mix until smooth and there are no lumps. (At this point the mixture can be chilled to keep for up to 2 days before baking).
Divide the mixture between the muffin tins, then bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 8 - 10 minutes until risen and golden. They should spring back when the top is lightly pressed. Cool for about 5 minutes before removing from the tin. Eat whilst still warm (siften with icing sugar and served with a dollop of cream), or cool on a wire rack. Best eaten day of making.

There are days when I feel I could write recipes forever - this being one of them, but time has moved on relentlessly so had better take my leave or you will be fed up waiting. Will return again tomorrow and hope you will also. If so - see you then.
Enjoy your weekend and don't forget to put the clocks back tonight.