Saturday, December 17, 2011

Always a Way

A few gremlins in the comp this morning, all OK until I started to type and then discovered the keyboard wouldn't work. Checked the wiring, seemed OK but removed plug from hard drive and pushed it back in again, and now it is working.
We do have an old keyboard that was never thrown out (why?) and probably that will still work if the one used now ends up kaput. Only prob with the old one was that the letters on it got worn off (so why don't I paint on new ones?).

An important part of a 'woman's lot' was high-lighted in today's comments. Lynn's husband is right, we don't HAVE to go out to work to make ends meet. As long as one wage is coming in, and the main bills are able to be paid, then who needs more? Trouble with today is that things in our day (like last century) we called 'luxuries' are now expected to be something everyone should be able to have, like ALL the time. We all need something to look forward to, but when we already have most of what we want, anything 'better' costs a LOT more money. Living a more the simple life means that an occasional treat is that much more enjoyed (like being able to eat strawberries only when in season).

What most don't seem to realise is that a lot of their earnings go on things needed when 'out to work'. More clothes, more makeup, extra travelling expenses. With far less time to deal with household chores, money then is spent on take-aways, ready-meals, convenience foods.... Many wives insist they need a tumble drying, dish-washer, sometimes even a cleaning lady.
Haven't even mentioned the cost of child-care. It all adds up - and in some cases MORE than that earned. There is also the extra stress of having to juggle the 'outdoor' and 'indoor' lives together.
Obviously am not suggesting that women should not go out to work. Many are professional so would not wish to give this up. But those in the more mundane jobs might find they are better off (financially and mentally) when giving up 'outside' work. When we look hard enough we can always find a way to save a few more pennies, and often £££s.

What we need to remember is that although not earning us a wage, running a house/kitchen on 'business lines' can bring in quite a bit of money, albeit by way of 'savings'. Not only that, we also end up with far better meals for less cost. Although food is the human 'fuel', it goes a lot further than just eating to keep ourselves alive. We have all heard the saying 'Families who eat together, stay together', and 'comfort eating'. Imagine husbands, sons and daughters arriving home after hard day's work, shivering with cold, to be met by the wonderful smells wafting from the kitchen. They bless us for that.

Problem with us women is we don't know our worth. We think if we don't go out to earn money, we are a bit of a waste of space. Don't you believe it. All the work we do at home - especially the cooking - could earn us much money if we chose to do it as a career. We have only to read the ads in The Lady mag, to see how the wealthy families are crying out for a 'good home cook' etc., and prepared to pay for this - even thrown in a cottage on the estate to live in. We are worth our weight in gold, so don't you forget it! Being 'just a housewife' IS a career in its own right. It would cost an awful lot of money to employ anyone to do what we do, especially as no-one does everything (as we do). Work out how much it would cost to regularly employ a cleaner, child-minder, cook, some-one to wash and iron the laundry, do the gardening, maybe even some decorating.
Am almost believing I'm becoming gold-plated this very minute.

Do agree with you Alison about the feeling of insecurity when running our stores right down. I'm exactly the same. Generally I try to build up enough stock to (hopefully) keep us fed and watered for three months (even six months at a push) without buying more, but not running out completely. Not spending any more money on food for three months is a saving in its own right. In some families this could add up to £500! Even a lot more.

Perhaps the easiest way to deal with this type of challenge but still feel we wish to keep some food on the shelves is to play the grocer/customer role, and from the very start 'buy' the food we use from ourselves (if 4 oz/100g flour used, then just pay for that amount, not the whole bag). Put this money in a 'Shirley Jar' (not my idea to call that, but one that many 'fans' called it this when I was more in the public eye). Then, when any fresh produce is needed (milk, eggs, veggies...), we use only the money from the Jar.
From past experience have found that £10 a week is more than enough to 'top up', allowing for an extra 'treat' if we feel the need. But if that money comes from the Jar (even though this did initially come from our purse), somehow it doesn't feel like spending MORE money. We are just spending 'savings'.

If we carry on making do with what we've got - right throught the year - from then on it is only the money saved (either in the Jar or the unspent food budget) that use to replace items on the shelves, or buy more fresh produce. Don't know why it is, but this approach seems to work like a dream - even allowing for rising food prices. Regular readers will remember that a year or so ago - at the start of the year - did my usual 'use up what I have', and by not spending any money for at least a month, was then able to use part of the unspent food budget to buy the Donald Russell meat offer, which then vastly improved the quality of our meals, yet still had 'savings' left over. Later was able to buy a whole salmon (of offer at the Glasson Smokehouse) for £10 (from savings). And so it continued. My monthly grocery delivery is also part-paid from savings, part from the money vouchers, and very little (if at all) of our pension money.

It's also important to remember that we moved to Morecambe two years ago at the end of June and had to start building up stocks from scratch. Hardly any food brought with us. Yet have still found it easy to keep within my set monthly budget (even decreasing it as the months go buy) AND build up plenty of stocks. It's all about knowing/learning the canny way to shop I suppose.

Was interested to hear about the community in Sussex that minimiser deb mentioned. Wonder what 'branch' of religion they were from. Sounded a cross between the Amish and the Mormons.

Thanks for all those (Kay, et al) who suggested I gave the local church a try. They often have coffee mornings, so might go to one of these as a start in the new year.
Although Morecambe does have quite a number of 'clubs' Cheesepare, it is how I get to them that bothers me. If the weather is fine, could use Norris to scoot me to the ones closer to home, but otherwise would need a taxi (which is a waste of money), or expect B to take me there and fetch me home. Having had to request this in the past (long past), found it doesn't work, for B tends to fall asleep in his chair (even when young). He nods off a lot more now, and also can't hear the phone when asleep as he is quite deaf (even though he denies this - won't wear a hearing aid for vanity reasons), so this could mean I could be stranded - perhaps for hours.

Another problem with me is that I like to be independent, so used to having my own car and being able to go hither and thither at my own pace and time. To ask B for help with transport goes against the grain, and although he would happily take me there, after a short time this would then become 'a bit of a nuisance'. So will have to 'cut my coat according to my cloth'.

Thanks for telling us about the coriander pesto CP. But not for me as I really dislike the flavour of fresh coriander (although don't mind the dried spice). From now on, once the jars of pesto on my shelves have been use up (or even before they are started) my intention is to being making my own using fresh herbs, baby spinach, watercress etc.

Good to hear about the Mennonite community in your region Margie. Also your comment re stocking up. As mentioned above, allowing ourselves a set and small amount each week for 'topping up' should help us keep tight control of our (future) budget. Often, having only a small amount to spend, also means we keep our eyes open for good reductions, and if these have a long shelf life, all the better.
My aim is for most of the products on my larder shelves to have been bought only when on offer or reduced in price. As most of them are already.

Have to admit that most of the recipes I suggest are what I call 'cheapos'. This is because they are based on what I have in store (fresh foods or canned etc). Why I believe that everyone else uses the same ingredients I don't know, for am sure many of you do not. But always there is room to adapt, even if leaving out meat altogether from a meat-based recipe. Let us hope that the recipes today fit it to most readers 'already have'.

First recipe uses minced beef (from the freezer?), and as this dish is intended to feed six, then certainly not expensive for not much meat is used (per head). Add more if you wish, or even less (adding peas or swede to make it 'stretch' further).

Meat and Potato Pie: serves 6
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, chopped
12 oz (350g) minced beef
2 tblsp tomato ketchup
1 tblsp Worcestershire sauce (or HP)
2 tsp Marmite
1 rounded tblsp plain flour
salt and pepper
1 large potato, peeled and diced
5 fl oz (150ml) water
1 lb (500g) shortcrust pastry
Put the onion, carrots and mince in a frying pan, and 'dry fry' until browned, Keep stirring to prevent them burning. Reduce heat then stir in the tomato ketchup, the W. sauce, and the Marmite, followed by the flour and seasoning to taste. Cook for 1 minute then add the potato and the water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, then leave to cool.
Roll out two-thirds of the pastry to line the base and sides of an 9" (23cm) square cake or deep roasting tin. Fill with the meat and vegetable mixture, pressing down fairly firmly, then roll out the remaining pastry to make a lid, dampening and pressing the edges of both the lining and the lid to seal. Make a couple or so slit in the lid to allow steam to escape. Brush with milk to glaze (opt). Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for half an hour or until golden. Serve hot with a side dish of green veg or salad.

Next recipe uses minced chicken or turkey and myself would use cooked 'leftovers', but as minced poultry cooks fairly rapidly, we could use raw mince. This is an ideal recipe for using up oddments of any nuts that we might have, especially after Christmas (almonds, Brazil nuts, pine nuts, pecans, walnuts, cashews, peanuts, pistachios etc). If you don't have saffron, add half a tsp turmeric to give the yellow colour. Or omit altogether.
Tip: most nuts don't normally have a long shelf life when out of the shell (tend to go rancid) , so use within date on packet (or soon after) alternatively store them in the freezer when they will keep for months.
This is a good recipe for those that enjoy a spiced dish but find a curry normally a bit too 'hot'.

Middle Eastern Pilaf: serves 4
pinch saffron threads
14 fl oz (400ml) hot chicken stock
1 oz (25g) butter
1 onion, chopped
9 oz (250g) minced chicken or turkey (see above)
1 cinnamon stick (or half tsp dried cinnamon)
1" (2.5cm) root ginger, grated (opt)
8 cardamom pods, crushed (seeds only used)
3 tblsp sultanas
7 oz (200g) long-grain rice (pref basmati)
4 oz (100g) mixed nuts (chop/flake the large ones)
Put the saffron in a jug with the hot stock and set aside. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a saucepan and stir in the onion and chosen minced meat. Fry for 5 minutes until the onion has softened and the mince has browned. Stir in the cinnamon, ginger, cardamom seeds, sultanas and rice. Stir well to combine then pour over the saffron/chicken stock.
Bring to the boil, cover and reduce heat, then simmer for 10 minutes before checking to see if the rice is cooked (long-grain rice takes longer than basmati) and all the stock has been absorbed. When ready, replace lid, remove from heat and leave to stand for 5 minutes.
To serve, tip out contents onto a warmed serving dish, scraping out and then stirring into the pilaf the rich buttery crust that should be coating the base of the pan. Sprinkle the nuts over the top (or stir them in before tipping into the serving dish), then serve immediately.

Next dish makes good use of white fish fillets we may have in our freezer. Myself thaw these out by placing in a shallow dish, covering them with water, then once thawed, use the water as the 'fish stock'. This is more economical if less fish is used and more of the other ingredients used.
In winter, probably cheaper to use 4 tblsp canned chopped or plum tomatoes than using fresh ones.

Portuguese Fish Soup: serves 6
1 lb (500g) white fish fillets
2 tblsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 ripe tomatoes, finely chopped (see above)
2 - 4 cloves garlic (to taste) chopped or crushed
pinch saffron threads (opt)
2.75 pints (1.6 litres) fish or veg. stock (see above)
9 oz (250g) long-grain rice
1 lb (500g) floury potatoes, peeled and diced
salt and pepper
flat-leaf parsley for serving
Remove any skin from the fish fillets, and place fish (and skin) into a dish and cover with water and leave to stand whilst making the rest of the dish. If the fish is frozen, then leave in the water to thaw before removing skin. Once the fish has soaked discard the skin (although some chef grill or fry it until crisp and use it to garnish a fish dish).
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a deep frying pan and fry the onion for about 5 minutes until softened. Stir in the garlic and fry for a further minute, then add the tomatoes and saffron. Cook for five minutes, then drain the fish. Use the 'soaking' water as part of the stock (making up the rest with either water or veg. stock) and add this to the pan. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 15 minutes, uncovered, until slightly reduced. Add the rice and potatoes, then cover and simmer for approx 20 minutes until the rice is just tender.
Cut the fish into large cubes (smaller and it tends to break up when cooked) and carefully place these into the simmering 'broth', cover and leave to cook/steam for 5 minutes (by which time the fish should be opaque/cooked). Add seasoning to taste, then serve hot sprinkled with parsley.

Trade mag has arrived and see this week there is a 66 page Top Products survey to read. It will be interesting to find what 'other people' consider worth buying. Bet many never even get close to my shopping basket. Beloved is out at his sailing club's Christmas Party this evening so that will give me plenty of time to read the trade mag and mark out what 'secrets' are worth passing on to you tomorrow.

We're just about out of bread, so that means more baking to be done today, and I really MUST sort out the drawers in our smaller freezer to make note of everything in there, and - hopefully - make more space.
My intention was to make ice-cream, but Beloved keeps bringing things in (Pukka pies, Vienetta...) for himself and these fill the (saved) gaps. He says the freezer should be full as this makes it run more efficiently!
Was a bit annoyed with him yesterday as I discovered he'd been helping himself to the tubs of long-life cream that I'd put in the fridge ready to make ice-cream when really fresh eggs and freezer space happened to be at the same time. He said he'd been using it at it was running out of date, and told me the last one he used said to be used by 8th of the 12th. Silly, silly man, he'd not been reading the dates properly, misreading the 12th as the month when it meant the YEAR! For some reason he couldn't understand the number in the middle (8-03-12) stood for the month.
At least managed to find this out before he had worked his way through all my reserves of cream. You wouldn't believe the sulky face he put on when I suggested he use the can of 'squirty' cream to put on his pudding yesterday instead of the 'real' cream, so I gave in and let him start another tub, with a warning to make it last. He is flippin' lucky to be able to regularly have cream at all. He is completely spoilt when it comes to his meals. Seem to have made a rod for my own back there, just trying to continually keep him happy. What's the point? He hardly ever is whatever I do. Some people are born to be never satisfied with their lot, and maybe this is a good thing, for otherwise we might all stay 'neanderthal', happy in our caves munching on mammoth muscle. But sad when we now have so much to be thankful for but never seem able to see it.

Anyway, better get on with my rather boring-at-the-moment life. Still plenty to do - like making the Christmas Tree and putting up a few decorations.
There was an article in the paper the other day about how much better men would be at organising Christmas. But it also pointed out that most men leave just EVERYTHING to their wives, such as writing/sending cards, buying/wrapping presents, doing all the decorations and all the cooking, so a man's idea of Christmas would be to buy plenty of booze, not bother with sending cards or putting up decorations, heat up and serve a Christmas ready-meal, then open all the presents that people have bought him. He himself probably wouldn't bother buying any gifts "because I didn't know what everyone wanted". And he'd be quite contented with that, so perhaps we women do make too much work for ourselves. Why? Because we love and care, not for ourselves but for the family. Men tend to put themselves first.

Although I often seem to moan about B, what he does is not really his fault as a lot of his strange outlook on life (strange to me that is) seems to have come from what he learned from family and friends during his earlier years. He used to tell me how his mother always said (from experience no doubt) that "children always keep you poor" (and poverty to B meant something not to be enjoyed. Think he'd have been far happier if we had no children, trouble was he never found out the reason why until too late!!).
Beloved's teenage 'mates' approach to girls was "treat 'em mean to keep 'em keen", and "always look after number one, for no-one else will" Also "never tell a girl you love her (unless you want her to give you something) for then she will always keep you under her thumb". And - "always date a girl attractive enough for your boss to fancy, then you'll be sure of keeping your job", so this is something that B thought was true. And still does.

Don't think my parents gave me any hints and tips about having children (sex was not mentioned in my day) or much about boy friends. Most of my 'training' was to do with how to handle any money I had, and always make sure I saved some of it, then only spent the interest and ALWAYS to keep the balance intact - which of course I didn't in my teen years 'cos I thought it not necessary. The sense of that eventually caught up with me, and once my 'lean years' had passed, now - with a few pence left in my purse at the end of the week - am able to make sure I save rather than spend. Actually enjoy doing so (although don't hoard money like I hoard food - but tend to give any 'surplus' away. I get more pleasure out of being 'poor' than ever I did when I had a few pence to rub together).

Unfortunately we have had no more snow, although B says there is a lot on the top of the Lakeland hills across the Bay. Am hoping we get more, although perhaps (for the sake of the rest of the nation) not until after the Christmas festivities. Then it can snow, snow, snow, for at least I'll be content knowing my shelves are full. It's almost like being able to 'hibernate' indoors, but still keep awake and eat. Sounds my type of fun!

This is the final weekend before Christmas, so hope all 'working' readers are able to cope with the rush to catch up. If anyone can find the time to drop me a line, then hope you will, otherwise will understand that there are more important things to be doing. Whatever you do, please enjoy doing it. Until tomorrow, and as long as there are no more gremlins, will meet up with you then.