Sunday, November 27, 2011

Looking To The Future

The trade mag had a LOT to interest me this week, much of it needing thought. The temptation is to buy food to 'hoard' if the future looks bleak, but we must always remember this is not really sensible. Just buy enough to keep us going for (say) at least 3 months. Certainly all 'dry goods' have at least a year's shelf life, but most of us would not use it all within that time once our shelves are loaded.

We MUST never be tempted to believe we need so many different foods/ingredients that are in the stores today. We really don't, and I know I keep saying this - but wartime rations were so sparse that it seems unbelievable today that anyone could exist on them at all. But people did. AND remained healthy. We don't need as much food to eat as we think we do. A 'balanced' meal works as well now as it did again today.

So - we now have to consider the food budget. OF COURSE it makes sense to buy foods when on offer (especially those with a long shelf life) and keep them in store. At the moment this may be the only way we can keep any future wolves from the door. We should try to ignore all the 'new' varieties that keep being introduced by the manufacturers, and instead stick to basic ingredients and make as much ourselves as we can. This way our money will go much further and any rising prices should be able to be handled without us needing more to pay for it.

Meat prices are rising, and apparently there is a lot of 'rustling' going on. Door-to-door salesmen are peddling boxes of black-market meat to householders (and suppliers) so beware!
More than 60,000 sheep had been stolen by the end of October - two and a half times more than last year, also a rise in cattle, pig and game thefts.
This is because of the increase in the price of meat sold over the counter. Last week the kilo price of lamb was 59% more than in 2008. With "the price of everything going up horrifically, people are losing their jobs and turning to any which way to make money and others in the trade are willing to cut corners and break the law to keep themselves afloat".

An interesting article re Heston Blumenthals Christmas Puds. Apparently so popular that last year that they attracted bids up to £250 on eBay when Waitrose supply ran out and the shelves were empty. This year the supermarket promised more stock, and already some customers who managed to buy one have put the puddings up on eBay for sale. Last Thursday prices varied from 99p to £200!.
Almost reminds me (again) of wartime when foods were sale on the Black Market for incredibly high prices.

One sobering headline: "Experts warn of new year price increases". Followed by "Food prices are likely to increase more in 2012 than they did this year, despite signs commodity prices have peaked, according to new research....Commodity prices may be coming off their peak, but the delay in rises being passed on means, for many consumers, the worst could still be to come".
"Suppliers had been resisting price increases due to pressure from big retailers....but now higher commodity prices were finally being passed on to retailers, consumers would be likely to start feeling the brunt once Christmas was out of the way".
Sensibly of course "with only a month to go until Christmas, retailers are unlikely to increase prices straight away, but in the new year, many will have to relieve the pressure". So - whilst the stores are desperate for our custom in the run-up to Christmas and practically giving some products away (or at least at half price or 'buy one get two free', then perhaps it would be wise to take this short-term advantage. But only purchasing foods we would normally buy and that have a long shelf-life.

On the other hand the above is only supposition. Maybe some stores will decide to cut their usual enormous profits so that we can still purchase foods at the prices we can afford. Any store that did this would soon gather customers from all the other stores who decide to up their prices. Could be that even bigger 'store wars' will soon be on the horizon.

In another feature this jumped out at me: "Grocery retailers and food and drink suppliers may have avoided the worst of the economic crisis until now, but financial experts are widely predicting turbulent times ahead in the UK." Remember this is a trade mag and the ones most likely to have the vapours when reading this are the stores, not their customers (for they will do anything in their power to keep them, so at least this can work for us).

A brief note at the foot of one column says "TV Chef James Martin has launched Fork and Spoon, an online delivery service bringing 'restaurant quality meals and dishes' to shoppers." Well, it might be of interest to some.

Potato crisps are something I remember from my childhood. At one time it seemed to be only Smith's Crisps that had a little blue bag of salt also in the packet. Their factory was on the outskirts of Great Yarmouth and it was always a pleasure when on holiday to sniff the scent of the crisps in the air as we drove past the buildings.
Since then we have umpteen different manufactures (my favourite is Walker's), and almost qs many different flavours. So am surprise to read there is a new kid on the block with the launch of a new range of 'bread crisps', marking Symington's first move into the snacks market.
Initially the bread crisps will come in four flavours: "Farmer Fred's Cheddar Cheese and Red Onion"; "Fireman Frank's Sweet Chilli"; "Trawlerman Ted's Sea Salt and Balsamic Vinegar"; and "Saucy Sue's Tangy BBQ"...(rsp £1.69 for a 100g cardboard drum).
A 25g serving of the bread crisps contains between 101 and 107 calories and a third less fat than standard potato crisps, claims the company.
These 'crisps' will be launched in 170 Morrison's stored from early December, and sold initially on a two-for-three promotion.
Yes, this is another new product, but perhaps one we should consider as least more healthier than potato crisp for children (many who seem to live on these).

Anther new product (perhaps worth noting the flavours so we could try making them ourselves?) is a range of dips: pomegranate with green harissa hummous; broad bean hummus; and a yogurt nd green harissa dip.
It may seem hypocritical of me to suggest we try and copy some of the latest products on the market when above I've said we really don't have the need (or money) to buy them, but when it comes to 'home-made' we can allow ourselves the freedom to introduce new flavours to otherwise jading taste-buds. Just because it shouldn't cost us any more and probably considerable less than something else we might have served.

Anyone who dislikes Brussels sprouts (that's a good proportion of this nation) might be interested in the 'festive red-tinted variety' soon to be launched by M & S. This has higher levels of Vit.C that the trad green sprout and keeps its red colour after cooking. Even children may decide they like it after all (if you tell them it's the fairy version of red cabbage and not a sprout at all. Sometimes it helps to give a little white lie.)

Several pages of this week's mag are given over to the meat pie market (and similar foods: pork pie etc). As these are all 'manufactured', see no reason to promote any as we can always make these ourselves (with more meat and for less price!).

An article in the mag about a lady who made cup-cakes for sale. She signed up with Groupon (the website that encourages feeding frenzies from swarms of online bargain hunters).
Her offer of a dozen cakes for £6 instead of the usual rate of £26 (seems expensive, but perhaps they were extra special and larger than normal) prompted an orgy of clicking from hungry cake-heads, with some 8,500 'Groupies' taking up the offer before she pulled the plug".
'Worst decision ever made' the lady told reporters, as 'still working to make up the lost money'. On the other hand she had so much free publicity re this (the newspapers were full of it) that is probably cost her far less (even with her lost profits) than if she had advertised in the papers in the normal way.
The interesting thing about this is that the articles shows a picture of many ants (I think) tearing away at some prey,with the words beneath "Groupon users display the 'hive mind' intelligence of predatory jungle insects". What could be called 'mass hysteria', and something that could happen in the future if prices continue to rise and one supermarket then advertises a certain hard to find food on offer - even though it might be something we don't really need. If enough people flock to buy, then everyone feels they have to.

On the news yesterday we saw photos of the seasonal sales in America. Think Lisa mentioned these were about to begin. We saw people fighting to purchase what they thought they needed, one woman sprayed others with pepper so she could get to the front of the queue. There were fist fights, people climbing over each other, and one person was shot outside a store. Made our recent riots look tame.
What is it about us 'civilised' people that makes us go berserk when something is being sold at low price. Are we really that greedy? True, it's lovely to bag a bargain, but not get heated under the collar if we've been unfortunate to miss it.

To finish 'trade secrets' for this week think this might be of some small interest: "Some 2.6 million fishcakes - one every second - were sold in the first month of the launch of Jamie Oliver by Young's frozen fish range".
Says much for the power of 'chef-speak'. Readers may remember - a few years back - when Saint Delia pushed cranberries and shortly after the nation's supply ran out. Everyone now (seemingly) desperate for a taste of Heston B's Christmas Pudding. Am now wondering if it is worth me promoting anything. But only as long as I think it worth it and the supplies give me plenty of freebies!

To your comments.
Stephanie mentions stocking up (now covered earlier in today's posting). Myself find the electric slicer sold by Lakeland is excellent, although possibly might be purchased elsewhere cheaper on-line, but at least Lakeland have such good customer service and will take back anything you've bought from them and not happy with (refunding the money), that I feel this is probably the only (family run) company left that we can trust implicitly. At least the only one I am aware of.

As you say Sairy, the Amish do seem now to allow certain 'electrics' in their home, although the washing machine needed a generator for the power. I also noticed that when cutting hair, a pair of electric clippers were used (B said this didn't count as it was run by batteries!). As I still have some hand-held old-fashioned hair clippers that my mother used, know that the 'trimming' can be done without electricity.
Apparently there are several levels when it comes to the Amish 'religion'. Some branches are very 'orthodox' and stick closely to the original rules. Others are more relaxed and allow themselves a few 'modern' appliances or equipment. Feel the family in the first episode were of the latter 'group', and next week the family will be stricter and rules will be tighter. Believe five or six Amish families - living in various states in the US - will be visited, and all will be different in some respect with the basic teaching constant with each. Am really looking forward to watching.

Many of the our 'old' recipes are now making a come-back, Spotted Dick being one of them. At least as far as restaurants go. Not sure about whether domestic cooks are convinced suet puds are worth making (they are!).
As to what cookbooks are my favourites MimsyS, not really sure, but do use Delia Smiths AND Mary Berry's book of cake and biscuit recipes. Other times tend to try recipes from books that have just the recipes of a particular country (say Italian, French, Spanish, Greek, or Middle Eastern, Indian, Oriental etc). Other times may read a cookery mag, see a recipe I like the look of, may then dismiss it as-is because it has too many ingredients and/or expensive to make, and they adapt to make it far easier to understand and also cost less.
There are very few 'original' recipes. Almost all we see in mags are just variations of (say) spag. bol, chilli, curry, casseroles/stew, meat pies, fish pies....and almost anything else you can think of. So many foods are similar - such as flat-breads (chapatis, flour/corn tortillas, pitta bread, naan bread...) that they are almost interchangeable. Same with the (French) omelette that is called a 'frittata' or 'tortilla' elsewhere.
Every recipe today (in cookery mags esp) is almost always the cookery-writer's own adaptation of something that has been made for years with maybe slightly different ingredients, and often still the same ingredients but the method has been re-written and maybe given a different name. There is no copyright on recipes, only on the written 'method'.

With Gill's phone call interrupting my thoughts, am now not able to bring myself back into 'free-flow' so perhaps best if I sign off for today and put my feet up (B having left to help out at his sailing clubs's Craft Fair/Hog roast),

Thankfully the wind has dropped (but only slightly). The plastic greenhouse was about to take off (the wind having unzipped the door), but B fixed it before he left. At least plenty of blue sky and fluffy clouds, so the Hog Roast won't get rained off (apparently it has a special cover just in case).

Despite the gloom and doom re rising food prices, this - as ever - I consider to be a challenge, and you all know how I enjoy a challenge! So am hoping the forthcoming of our 'winter of discontent' will inspire me to come up with fresh ideas of how to make the most of what we have. The one thing we ALL have to do is to learn to enjoy coping with the hardships that may lie before us, because this makes it all worth while - in fact the sense of achievement can be so great we wouldn't wish to return to 'how good it used to be'. Surviving on a pittance can turn out to be 'we've never had it so good before'. Hope you feel the same way.

Now time for me to 'enjoy myself ' (and it will be pleasurable) and do a bit of stock-taking in my larder/fridge/freezer. Have a chair in the larder, and can shut the door and sit with a cup of coffee just working out what can be used up next (and also what needs replacing).
Another thing worth doing is working out whether the price of something like a tin of corned beef works out more expensive compared to fresh meat bought for the same price. Methinks the fresh meat (it would have to be a cheaper cut - of quality) would make more meals.
Is canned salmon cheaper (by weight) than fresh salmon? Is a good canned soup dearer than the same flavour home-made? Are canned new potatoes cheaper than the same weight of 'fresh'. Will a packet of Yorkshire Pudding/pancake mix work out cheaper overall than making the same from scratch? We are used to paying slightly more for convenience, but it might be that convenient can sometimes work out cheaper.

The above was of little account some years ago. Now we have to think outside the box and approach our shopping/cooking by a different route. When I discover any useful money-saving ideas will pass them on. Hope readers will follow suite.

With that thought will now leave you and get on with the Goode life. All of you please enjoy your day, and hope you will find time to join me again tomorrow. See you then.