Sunday, December 18, 2011

What's In Store?

Before I begin today's chat, must first reply to comments.

Reason why I married my Beloved T Mills, is that I fell head over heels in love with him. And still do, even though he drives me to distraction most of the time. Perhaps I should make a New Year Resolution not to mention B again, but doubt I could stick to it. Maybe for Lent.

Forgot to mention yesterday after pulling B to pieces, that is it very important that we should always show our children the positive side of marriage, having children, learning skills, saving money etc. Growing up hearing only the bad about things doesn't help. Also (something B used to do - and still does) is not to criticise everything (B calls it 'positive criticism') but always give praise, even for the smallest things. This really is important. But then - from what he tells me - B was always criticised at home and at school, so he probably thought that was how he should behave, and maybe why he never feels he is good at anything.
And there is me criticising just about everything B does. Just goes to show we can't all be perfect. Mind you, I tend to moan about B mainly on my blog, to his face I always give him praise when he does something right. Occasionally I might give him both barrels when he really HAS given me cause to complain, but try to avoid doing it even when almost driven to, because as B can sulk for England, it just isn't worth putting myself through days of that.

Now you've just about stocked up for Christmas Alison, and planning to make it last until the end of January, why not go that extra mile and aim to make it last until the end of February? Maybe allowing yourself £10 to 'top up' with milk, eggs etc. Worth the challenge.

Garages are very useful for storing non-foods (also some things like sacks of carrots and potatoes), but be careful with anything crystalline or powdery (sugar, washing powder etc), for these absorb any damp in the atmosphere, although it helps to store the bags in sealed plastic bags. It's bad enough in our kitchen, even with the extractor fan on, quite a few (old) bags of sugar have gone rock hard.
Oil can be kept in a garage, it will go cloudy (almost solidify) when cold, but become fluid again when brought into room temperature.
Cans could go rusty, but as Lynn, you mentioned you will be using a shelf that held books, if the books were in the garage and as paper also soaks up damp in the air, you will already have a good idea of whether the garage stays 'dry' or not. If the books stayed perfect, then your washing powder probably will too.

Don't know why it never crossed my mind that the can cosies would be used for drinks Lisa. What a good way to keep them chilled. Doubt in this country our weather is ever hot enough to need to keep cans chilled. We just fetch another from the fridg if we need one. Picnics are often held on river-banks and bags of cans/bottles often hung in the water to keep them cool.

Not sure what 'saltine crackers' are or even taste like. Always believed them to be plain 'savoury', the type to eat with cheese (like our Cream Crackers - these being square, thin and bone-dry). Can't imagine those being used to make a toffee.

Your comment Campfire on other's store cupboards, reminded me of a 'bridge friend' in Leeds who had a large kitchen and big walk-in larder. The only 'stores' she kept in her larder were several cans of cat food, bottles of different types of olive oil, and several bottles of wine. She may have had a bread-bin to make toast, and a bag of porridge oats in one of her (few) cupboards.
She didn't enjoy cooking, preferring to heat 'n eat M &S 'ready-meals', and saw no point in keeping any provisions. She did have a milkman deliver 'doorstep' milk/eggs as and when needed.
When she was ill she had to rely on friends or neighbours to bring in food for her, as she had none to fall back on. Not even a can of soup.

After inheriting some money, she spent some of it having her kitchen altered, losing the larder (to make an even bigger kitchen), and then had loads of cupboards and self-closing drawers, a better fridge, a freezer, dishwasher, washing machine, tumble dryer, double oven with microwave, large corner hob with extractor, and just about all 'necessary' you could wish for. She had been bought (years previously) a Kenwood electric mixer AND a food processor, but they still stayed unused in their boxes in kitchen cupboards, even when the new kitchen was fitted. What was the point of having a super-duper cheffy kitchen when you 'can't cook, won't cook? I asked myself. My friend also - at great expense - had a big glass-topped table imported from Italy to place in the centre of the kitchen. We used to sit and play bridge round it - I was asked to make/sew a baize cover (with elasticated hem) to fit over the table as other cloths just slid off. No way could that huge table be used to prepare food, or place on heated pans etc. Not even sure if it was ever used for eating, as the dining room/table was only a couple of paces away through the door.

Storing food is now much more of a priority that it was over recent years. A sobering article in the paper yesterday highlighted the need to keep enough food in store to keep us going for - say - at least three months (American suggest 6 months). Apparently, due to rising population in this country, if we have transport strikes (and this is believed very possible due to the current financial situation) lorry driverswill then not be delivering foods to the supermarkets, and it said that there would be only a few days supply left before the shelves become empty.

Even in my life-time can remember lorry driver's strikes. This caused a shortage of bread in the supermarkets, and the local bakers were selling a loaf for £5 THEN (around £50 today). A potato crop failure also put up the price of potatoes beyond anything I could afford, and it was then I discovered that rice and pasta was a good alternative, and have never looked back since (prior to that potatoes were served with every main course).

Also the article pointed out that when food is in short supply, it is this that people will go hunting for. Forget burglars stealing in to steal your TVs, they will break in to steal food. We already have heard about many allotments having the growing produce stolen.

Seems it is not uncommon now for people to store food in their garages, a man admitted to having over 100can of baked beans, and even though he didn't even like beans he did know they had good food value. So, before I started writing today, went into the larder to count my cans, and seem to have amassed around 70!! Not all beans of course (think I have 8 of those), but the total (beans, fruits, sardines, tuna, soups, tomatoes, potatoes....). Previoulsy have felt a bit Felt ashamed of the number of stores I'd 'collected', but after I read the article feel that perhaps I'm on the right side of being sensible.

There was a mention of stocking up on water too. Not quite sure why, but that isn't top of my list. We do have the sea on our doorstep, so if push comes to shove, B will be sent down to bring back some containers of sea water that can be used for steaming vegetables, using for cooking boil-in-the-bag etc. Cleaned and lined wheelie bins will be left, lids open, in the garden to collect rain water to filter, boil and drink. And what's the betting if we are forced to go to these extremes, that will be when we have almost year-long drought?

Trade mag this week had plenty to ponder over. This time it was covering all types of foods, but to save time limited my reading to only those of interest to me. No point in giving details of the rise of certain confectionery products, which are the most popular brands/types of sweets, for sweets are a 'treat' and aren't priority when it comes to both saving and stocking-up. Same goes for cigarettes and booze.

For those who have uni students in the family, worth knowing that "...while students whine about how much it cost them to study, it turns out that students are good for something after all - spending money in supermarkets. A Top Products Survey shows that classic student fare is up there amongst the strongest performers. Witness the astonishing growth of Pot Noodles. Sales are up 21.1% to £93.5m, whilst the instant pot snacks category as a whole has grown 6% by volume and 15.2% by value.
Retailers are taking note: Asda opening 'student zones' in 29 stores near universities."

This troubles me. Surely the price of a Pot Noodle could be spent on more and healthier foods? Problem is many students either don't know how to, or don't wish to cook.

Sports and energy drinks are also one of the fastest growing category "providing a much-needed fix in today's stressed environment". The most surprising casualty of the past year has been 'that stalwart of the downturn' - baked beans!

Jamie Oliver will continue his crusade for healthier school dinners. "The TV chef, who has been the face of Sainsbury's for the past 11 years, and who filmed his last ad for the retailer last month (this being launched on Tuesday o bid farewell to the chef), wants to take over the school dinner service." His plan is to take over a local school food service and run it as a not-for-profit operation.

Am really interested in this snippet. Poundland is gearing up to launch its first e-commerce website where everything will sell for £1. Unfortunately the article didn't specify whether it was only non-foods or whether food would also be able to be ordered on-line.

Despite continual shortages, Waitrose will not be delivering more Heston's Christmas Pudding to their stores. The weeks needed to cure the oranges (used in the middle of the pud) means there is no time for any more to be made. A later article shows how this 'special pudding' is now more than just a treat..."For the second year in a row, shoppers have migrated from rucking in the aisles to scrapping online, to get their greedy mitts on Heston's puddings. They are already fetching £250 apiece on eBay, while The Times reports on how one crafty devil in Essex invested in 50 of the prize puds - having duped Waitrose staff to sell him a wheelbarrow load for a phoney family wedding - and then flogged them at the relatively bargain-basement price of £99 a pop."

Rapeseed oil - due to unfavourable weather in the UK - is headed for a supply squeeze, with higher prices, compared with other vegetable oils, likely to cause some demand rationing. The good news is that good weather in other regions of the world have given good crops of sunflower seeds, and this may even see a decrease in the price of sunflower oil.

The outlook for the grocery trade - as for all retailing in 2012 - is not so good "as this is the most dismal in living history. Irrespective of what happens to the euro, real incomes in the UK will continue to fall, and retailers will cut each others throats for a share of whats left.
Is that good news or bad for us customers? Feel that possibly we may find it benefits us as more and more foods will have to be on offer just to keep us coming back to the same store. We will just have to wait and see.

Each week there is a column written about food/cookery progs, and this week Hugh F.W's River Cottage Christmas had a slating. As did Jimmy's Grow Your Own Christmas Dinner. Seems that Jimmy (Doherty) "had shelled out £1,500 on growing the ingredients (or buying the old-style poultry etc) compared with the £120 they'd cost in a farm shop, and £60 in a supermarket - which emerged the unlikely hero of the hour".
Jamie's Christmas with Bells on "was Oliver at his best. So perhaps other TV chefs could watch and learn.

Tate and Lyle have produced a new product - a blend of sugar and the herbal extract 'stevia'. This 'Light at Heart' sugar is almost all pure cane sugar with less than 1% of the extract - this being 100 times sweeter than sugar.
Despite being added in such small quantities, this 'stevia sweetness' means that consumers need to use only half the normal amount of sugar as used in the past. This can be used in baking as well as a more traditional 'sweetener'. No price given, but as long as it is less than double the price of 'normal' sugar, then possibly a win-win product.

The egg industry have now announced that consumers can safely eat eggs even after their best-before date. Providing eggs were cooked thoroughly, they could be eaten a day or two after the date shown. "Apart from eggs, most other foods could already be eaten safely after the best-before date because the phrase relates to quality not safety". Thank goodness someone has come to their senses. I've been eating 'past their best-before' for years without any problems.

Good news for home cooks. Apparently volume sales on cakes are down 4.1% year-on-year. Probably due to the rise in price of raw ingredients (butter being a key culprit, closely followed by sugar).
Seems the rise in home-baking has played a part in the lack of sales "with more and more Brits opting to bake from scratch, or at very least using cake kits". Let us hope more and more of us cook not only cakes but just about everything we might normally have bought in the past. Then the grocery industry will fall flat on its face.

Passing over pages of 'convenience' foods like different varieties of cereals, biscuits, did stop to read a bit about chocolate. "Consumers' disposable incomes are now at their lowest points since the 1970s due to wage freezes, rising costs and tax increases.....Britain becoming a stay-at-home nation as consumers feel the bite of the downturn, driving a shift away from conventional chocolate bars to bags of treats for sharing".
The cook in me even sees that a way to waste money. Dump the 'sharing bags' and instead make our own Cinder Toffee, fudge, and not forgetting the biscuits.

Incidentally, if you have (like B) bought a large tin of sweets (on offer of course) no doubt there will be several you don't really like (in my case soft-centres, strawberry flavoured). However, if collected up and then melted in a bowl over hot water (or in the microwave), they then turn into a loving hot 'pouring' sauce that eats very well with ice-cream. Melted coffee cream is lovely with chocolate ice-cream.

The rising cost of sugar has led to jams, marmalade and other preserves rising in price, so it does make sense to make our own (and we know it will taste better). However, for those who still prefer to buy a jar now and then (possibly people who live on their own), Duerr's have introduced an 'easier-to-open' lid in its jams/marmalade range. Intended to appeal to all consumers, not just those with arthritis or weak wrists. Again no price, but definitely worth looking out for if you are intending buying a preserve for an elderly person who has problems opening things. (Myself an unable to open any containers that have child-proof lids).

Pot snacks and pasta sales are booming (and not just for students). "Even with huge inflation in pasta, the consumer still sees it as cheap. You can buy a bag of pasta for 50p or 90p in a supermarket and you can feed six. There's been a lot of inflation, but growth has never been so high." Feeding six for 50p/90p is only the price of the pasta - add a meat sauce and then the cost rockets up. But then we have to ask ourselves how many portions we could make for the same amount of money if we used another 'base', such as potatoes, rice, pearl barley etc. To make a dish using the least amount of money, it is always wise to check which 'carbohydrate' costs the least, and use this instead of a more expensive one that a recipe might suggest.

A paragraph on a page about convenience 'cooking sauces' caught my eye..."If you look at the average family, the mum cooks the same 6.4 meals week after week. This sounds a bit boring, so we need to give inspiration and choice, and this can only be done through the brands (of sauces) communicating strongly."
Of course it could be that her family likes the 'same 6.4' meals regularly served. Myself find I tend to stick to B's favourites, possibly ten at the most, not all served regularly, just because I know he enjoys eating them. Even when 'eating-out' and face with a menu of dishes he has never tried, even if they sound mouth-watering, he still tends to stick to what he knows and loves.
Anyway, most of us can make our own pasta/pizza sauces, chicken and oxtail soup (canned or cuppa) are as good as any more expensive 'cook-in sauces', and the only ones I tend to buy these days are curry sauces (so many different flavours with curry, for me it is far simpler to buy the ready-made than have countless packets/jars of spices on the shelves that are so rarely used they have lost all their flavour).

With Gill's phone call and time taken to write out the trade secrets, no time to give a recipe today. We have wall to wall blue sky today, but even in the sun it is still very cold, so doubt I'll be stepping out of doors, although I really do need to go to the local shops early next week to get some (free) chicken carcases and beef fat (for dripping). But if too cold, will have to give it miss. Can't even keep warm indoors, yesterday spent most of the day AND evening clutching a hot water bottle. It might be a good idea if I wore a cardigan over my rather light-weight jersey.

Next week no doubt there'll be a lot of cookery programmes on showing us festive foods. Probably most of them repeats. Hope so as I doubt I will find time to watch. Some I would like to see. But could say "been there, done that", there is not much cookery shown on TV these days that I haven't attempted at one time or another.

As ever, enjoy the rest of your weekend, and please try to join me again tomorrow. TTFN.