Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Today is Yesterday's Tomorrow.

Before replies to the very many comments sent in (and how thrilled I was to get so many) would like to add a bit more to what was discussed yesterday. Perhaps the title of today's posting will stick in minds, for whatever the future, it will inevitably be the present, and then (hopefully in these lean times) become a thing of the past. Until it happens all over again. The longer we live the more likely lean times hit us. On the TV recently a doctor was saying it will be possible to increase lives, babies of today could live to be 110, in the future we could live to be 200.
All I could think about was how much it would cost a nation to keep the oldies alive, the extra food needed to be grown to feed everyone, not to mention the millions of children that will be born.
The minute we mess about with nature then all sorts of bad things can happen. Leave well alone like living three score and ten max, and we (used to ) have room to replace with a child or two. Live to be 200 and we then have a whole school playground of youngsters that then take up the space of just one. How many generations come on the scene before the very, very, very and very elderly pop their clogs?

Several hours yesterday were spent thinking about eating at the poverty level. Obviously can't speak for all poor, some live in cardboard boxes under bridges - although they may be able to beg more money than some pensioners receive legally!

If I suddenly found I had very little money to buy food and NO stores, when push came to shove I would choose to buy the best food value for money. We don't have to eat a lot to stay alive, at least we could manage for a week (even two) on very short commons. Was it Nigella Lawson's husband who lived on 9 eggs a day (and nothing else) for many weeks so that he could lose weight? Which of course he did.

My first purchases would be a tray of 15 eggs (£1.20). And a 6 pint carton of milk. That's protein sorted. Then I'd buy a couple of the cheapest cans of baked beans (veg protein), two cheapo cans of chopped tomatoes (veg), a white cabbage (veg), and the cheapest loaf of bread on sale. Free chicken carcases from the butcher to make stock and (hopefully) a small amount of cooked chicken from the bones. Not forgetting a bag of porridge oats.
Not sure how much all that would cost, and quite possible to 'make a meal' out of these. Porridge for breakfast, chicken soup for lunch, and egg on beans on toast for supper (that's even before I got my brain cells working harder). But if there was a little money left over, then a bag of plain flour, a small amount of sugar (pinch a few sachets from a cafe has entered my mind. Naughty!), a pack of butter or small bottle of oil. Cheap stock cubes and the 11p pack of noodles. A couple of carrots and a couple of large onions, also more than useful. Cheese - if possible, also a Value bag of apples. A bottle of orange squash would come in handy for drinks, and flavouring.

With flour, eggs and (free) water, we can make pasta. Flour and fat (could be chicken fat) make pastry. So we have the makings for chicken/veg pie, or pasta with a tomato sauce. Flour, eggs, milk make pancakes, AND Yorkshire pudding. Apple crumble (if we can afford apples) for pud.

You may wonder why I include butter. There is not now that much difference in price between butter (on offer) and margarine. We can always use chicken fat saved from making stock to use for frying. Butter too gives so much 'quality' flavour that even just a smidgin is worth using in cooking/frying.

Several of the foods above would last more than week for one person, two weeks if feeding two, although another bag of chicken carcases and a bit more fruit and veg, possibly another loaf and maybe cheese might be needed. Even without - obviously no-one need starve. As ever - it is what we do with what we've got.
I KNOW I keep referring to it, but coming back to living on tiny amounts, how many of us today could manage on wartime rations? That WOULD be starvation level by today's standards. But it was (just) enough, and no-one starved.
Watched a repeat of one of the Hairy Biker's progs which dealt with wartime rationing and the meals made then. Didn't realise it myself but horsemeat was eaten often. Whale meat I do remember (was it called Snoek?). Many families kept rabbits to breed and eat, also chickens for their eggs. Some people kept a pig on an allotment, they could keep half the meat, the butcher had to have the rest for his customers. Anyone keeping the whole pig would probably be shot!! Unlikely, but knowing that prison or worse could happen to a greedy person helped to keep a supply of pig meat in the butchers. Everyone would bin their food waste and it would be placed in the street to be collected and taken to farms for pig feed. This was the only waste allowed. If stale bread was found in the dustbin this led to an immediate and heavy fine.

Once we learn how 'the basics' (flour, sugar, milk, eggs....) can work together to make so many different things, we should never feel bored with what we make and eat. This makes me think of the older (starving!) folk of today who probably PREFER to eat the same things day in day out. The trad. English 'meat and two veg" served for every main meal etc. They would throw their hands up in horror if a Chinese stir-fry, or spag. bol was suggested to them. "Rather starve" they'd say. Perhaps this is why.

If not a 'wrinklie', then less chance of even knowing how to cook. Urbanfarmgirl says it all. Too many just 'used to' spending money on ready-meals etc.
We are all 'used to' doing lots of things, so no-one can really be the one to cast the first stone. What would happen if suddenly the electrical system failed. Apart from the normal electrically run appliances that we all rely on these days, we would also have no heating and no lights, and no hot water!! The horror of it. In modern houses probably no means of cooking. At least it is easier to learn to cook than cope with cleaning, filling and lighting oil lamps each day (always supposing oil was available). So things could be worse. A lot worse.

More than one reader mentioned the cost of smoking. In my youth everyone seemed to smoke. My father was a chain-smoker, my mother not far behind. Two weeks after our high ceilings had been painted white, they had turned yellow with cigarette 'fumes'. My dad's index and middle finger of his right hand were permanently stained a deep yellow colour, from the nicotine smoked as he held the cigarette betwen his fingers.
Probably older folk have still kept the habit of smoking, despite all the warnings. Maybe it gives them the comfort they need. Having not smoked myself, not sure what comfort it would give, myself would prefer to have a Kit Kat between my lips, but am sure there is some reason why people refuse to give up.
With cigarettes now costing almost a king's ransom, giving up just on pack a week would enable enough food to be bought to provide at least one main meal a day per head. Doubt that would even enter anyone's head.

Would like a mini challenge. So reader's, give me a really low budget to work with that can be spent on feeding (say) two people for a week (or one person per fortnight - almost same thing). Then I'll see what I can come up with and maybe even suggest a few recipes.

Think above has replied to your comment Alison. Lyn M's also gave a mention to the cost of keeping a dog. Don't think even I could get rid of our Lab even when money was tight (although tripe, left-overs from the plate, and home-made dog biscuits went a long way to help feed the lab). Free marrow bones from the butcher to gnaw on also kept her contented (and other free bones from the butcher bought to make stock also had edible parts to add to the dogs dish).
The fuel cost of using a tumble drier is quite high I believer. We have not one of course, and I either hang out the washing on a windy day or drape it over an airer and leave it in a warm room to dry out in its own good time. Am assuming anyone with a tumble dryer also has a washing machine that spins the water out of the clothes.
When we had three young babies (all under three) the washing was done in the sink, or boiled in a large pan on the stove, sheets 'trodden' in the bath. No wringer, so all had to be wrung by hand and then hung out to dry (or draped over the 'nursery' fire-guard placed around our coal fire). The airing cupboard helped to remove the last of any damp. Incidentally - no disposable nappies in those days, it was a terry nappy lined with a muslin nappy. That's two nappies per child for every change. And that was more than once a day. Can't remember but probably the older child was by then using a potty and had grown out of nappies.
There was so much washing needed to be done that it could fill four washing lines placed around the whole of the garden (and it wasn't THAT small a garden). Whenever possible, small amounts were done each day, but much depended upon the weather. Sunny and breezy and as much washing done as possible. Too breezy and the lines could break and the washing fall into the muddy soil beneath (and that happened too many times for me to wish to remember).

Thanks for reminding us of The Ultimate Guide to Penny Pinching (Thurs 8.00pm). Just hope it is as good as it sounds.

Your ground rice tarts sound good Susan G. It would be lovely if you could pass the recipe on to us (but if you prefer to keep it secret then will understand).

In a way Lisa, your comment surprised me when you mentioned some parents you know that spend money on 'recreational drugs'. Believe in this country we do have a few people who use these, but it is not common, and very much frowned on. Myself wouldn't wish my children to go anywhere near anyone who uses them, because this might encourage them to begin using them as they became older. But that's just us Brits. In Holland - for example - their 'brown cafes' sell (certain) drugs over the counter. I know of a group of young men who used to go on a long weekend to Amsterdam once a year just to be able to have their 'jollies' in this way, as they couldn't get the drugs over here (unless illegally and for very high prices), and anyway they weren't 'druggies', just enjoyed the short-term fun.

At one time a supermarket in Leeds (maybe others elsewhere too) used to offer paper bags to pack our shopping in, but if the contents were too heavy the paper gave way, so they went back to using plastic carrier bags. The government is trying to reduce the amount of plastic due to it not breaking down when 'rubbished', so we can either choose to have our food delivered in trays without bags (which then takes quite a time to unload it), or still have it in bags (which is what I do as I can return the bags the next delivery and have notice that many of my foods arrive in already used bags, so they are recycled).

Regarding the elderly in American, they seem worse off than us. We pensioners still have to pay for food and heating, but we do get £200 extra a year to help pay for fuel. Also they have free medication. Free TV licence over 70 (or is it 75), free bus passes and a rail-card (that needs to be bought) to reduce rail fares. Many cinemas, other public places....give reduced prices for pensioners - and restaurants also serve cheaper meals for pensioners - these being slightly smaller (but still very adequate).

Your mention of saving by not using a land line made me wonder how costly a land line is in the US. Here our (land) lines for phones are either owned by cable or British Telecom. Our computers use a landline for Broadband connection (is there any other way?). A phone call on a land line is very much cheaper than the same call using a mobile (or cellphone). According to the 'package' we can also phone for no charge at certain times (or to certain people). Gill phones me every Sunday using her 'free hour' on the phone. If I rang her I would be charged.
I rarely - if ever - phone anyone using my mobile, only use this for texting which I find very convenient. If using the mobile for calls (letting B know if I will be late home or he rings me on his mobile to say the same) we keep the message short and sweet to save the expense.

Like the idea of averaging the money spent 'per bag', as Lisa does, also - like minimiser deb, aiming to 'average' the cost of food to be £1 per product. A really different way to control the food budget that appeals to me. As I like a challenge, myself would then try to 'average' it lower, then lower. But that's me. In any case, when my next order is delivered (tomorrow) will see how much it does 'average' (after reductions). Then will let you know.

A welcome to our latest new reader Kate (would you believe my first thought was that the Duchess of Cornwall was reading my blog and had decided to write in! Honest truth. Just shows the way my mind works).
Thankfully Kate you are just 'one of us', with a family to feed and nurture on a small income. Being so old still feel that £30 per child is far too much to spend, but then in my day £30 was a lot of money. Apparently not now, although there is a lot 'out there' that children would love and doesn't cost THAT much. Or is it that children now aren't what they were?

Good idea gillibob to give the Guide's present money to charity. You've probably thought of this already, but by letting them know in advance this is what you will be doing, they might enjoy putting their heads together to choose the charity they wish the money to go to. If you prefer it to go elsewhere, they could probably be easily persuaded. By sowing the seeds of 'giving not receiving' this could then lead to your 'troop' becoming more aware of others needs, and ending the selfishness that seems to be rife amongst the young of today.

Your comment Campfire, re storing your veggies in an enamel bread box in the garage, reminded me of when we had a smaller fridge. Around Christmas, when we had all the family for the main meal (some stopping over), there was little room to store food, so I used an old four-drawer metal filing cabinet as a storage compartment - this kept in our front porch which was always cold in winter. It worked wonderfully well, even better than a fridge.

A good way to keep moisture out of a container is to sprinkle a thin layer of salt at the bottom, then cover this with a layer of kitchen paper. Place whatever is to be stored on top in the way you would normally. The salt absorbs the moisture in the air. Although it is probably best to keep some veggies in the plastic bags they come in - with holes punched in to allow a bit of ventilation or they can turn soggy and mouldy. Most veggies are full of moisture so we need to prevent that being lost.
The salt-under-paper in an airtight container works really well if wishing to bake and store for a few days something like vol-au-vents that tend to go a bit soft if kept 'normally'. Again the salt extracts moisture which keeps the pastry wonderfully crisp.

During the winter months it can often be colder out of doors than in a fridge. My fridge is set at 3C, lower than most but the right temperature to give a good shelf-life to most things. This is the temperature that supermarkets use for their 'cold-storage' before the produce hits the shelves.

Myself keep certain veggies in the fridge as they do keep longer. My choice being celery, bell peppers, parsnips (kept in the bag as they shrivel otherwise), carrots (likewise), cauliflower (keeps for ages), white cabbage (ditto), vacuum beetroot, iceberg lettuce, cucumber, spring onions, Chinese leaves, watercress etc. Large baking potatoes are kept in a fabric sack under the kitchen table(they still end up sprouting but don't turn green). Small 'new' potatoes are stored in the fridge although not normally recommended as their starch will eventually turn to sugar (which I don't find a problem). Onions are stored in a basket at (kitchen) room temperature, also butternut squash (but once cut it is then kept in the fridge, cut end covered). Tomatoes also in a bowl in the kitchen (in a cool spot).
Probably forgotten some but can't remember them at this moment.

Although I thought I'd written up a massive order on-line (my final decision being stock up now while the price is right, leaving me less to worry about when prices rise in the new year), was very surprise to find the total charge was far lower than expected. True, Tesco are having their 'price drop' (but not THAT much of a drop I have to say). But with ordering mainly foods 'on offer' this will lower the total even further (the reductions only shown on the final statement that arrives with the order). Am therefore not even using my 'money-voucher' that arrived earlier this month. I'll wait until the next (and hopefully not order anything else before then) so that I have money in hand to reduce the total IF and when the prices rise. Seems today we all need to keep one step ahead of the supermarkets.

Am now going to review my order, no doubt remove several things not really needed, and do have a small list of foods to include that were forgotten about at the time. Have until the wee small hours of tomorrow morning to change my order (and believe me I can change it up to five times), but at least this means I have a chance to put things that have tempted me back on the shelves which rarely happens when shopping in-store.

The way things are going - the nation's finances seem to get worse and worse by the day - we must keep reminding ourselves that - unlike the Greeks and other's who 'live for the day' (is it any wonder with this attitude the ancient Greek and Roman Empires declined) - we have to gird our loins and fight the good fight to keep our heads above water. Think to the future, prepre for the future, for the future will soon be today and then become history. By the time good times reappear (as they eventually will) I'll probably be dead anyway, but this is nothing for me to be concerned about for there is nothing I like more than a good battle. Much prefer 'surviving on a pittance' than being able to afford to buy what I wish. That's boring. I don't do boring.

No-one has ever said our lives should be easy. We are hear to learn, to advance, to get things right. Ok, sometimes they go wrong. Nations always seem to get things wrong at some time or another, but individually or as a family unit, we can go far. And don't need a lot of money to do so. We all have enough inbred skills to cope. Time we unearthed them.

One thought yesterday was that we would be far better off urging our children to learn a trade rather than go to university to get a degree that probably is of no help whatsoever - other than pointing out they have some intelligence.
My idea of an ideal family would be a mother, father, four sons and two daughters. The father would work in some trade or another - maybe as a car mechanic (ever useful), but he would also have an allotment to grow fruit and veg. Mother would be the cook, housekeeper and also could knit and sew. One son would train to be an electrician, another a plumber, a third would be a carpenter, the fourth a builder. As well as working for an employer, in their spare time they could build a house for each, help to maintain each others property. Maybe eventually setting up in business on their own (or together as property developers). Other choices of work could be either a butcher or greengrocer.
A daughter could be a dressmaker, a hairdresser - perhaps even a nurse. With a family like that who needs anyone else to sort out household problems. Think of the money that would be saved?

Unfortunately in the real world our children, all of who seemed far 'better off' (finance, work etc) than (relatively) B and myself, have now (not sure about the one in America) having to face the brunt of the recession. Redundancy as well as illness causing loss of work. The (financial) outlook for them is not great. Seems no one these days can feel secure any more. So it makes sense for at least me to tighten my belt and save as much money as I can by doing a lot more cost-cutting cooking. Thankfully our children do know how to cook. What they choose to buy and eat is not known to me, and am just hoping they follow in my footsteps when it comes to thrift.

Have just learned visitors will be arriving about 1.00pm. So have to dash and clear up etc. Hope to meet up with you again tomorrow. See you then.