Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Check twice, pay once

Feeling absolutely exhausted yesterday, even after spendings an hour sitting on our garden bench in the sun. With eyes closed it was like it was yesterday where - as a teenager - I sat on the very same bench shelling peas for our lunch-time meal. We kept the bench when my parents died and it has been with us ever since - almost as good as new (although needs a bit of teak oil). Felt all the better for the sunshine, but still got dizzy spells each time I got up after bending down. Also very breathless.

At the end of the day (when I was feeling like it was the end of my life) found a half-full bottle of iron pills in the kitchen drawer, so decided to take a couple. Would you believe in a couple of hours I felt back to normal again? Probably had a form of anaemia due to me not eating meat (I mainlyeat veggie protein, but am one of those people who 'need' meat and fish occasionally). Now have no dizziness, no breathlessness.

Even managed to stay awake to watch a late film "Once Upon a Time in the West'. Have seen it before but always nodded off half way through. This time saw it all. It has to be one of my most favourite films, partly because Charles Bronson and Henry Fonda are in it (love 'em both) and also because of the haunting music. It's one of those films (like Dirty Dancing, Brokeback Mountain, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers...) that I can watch again and again.

So, not a lot was done in the kitchen yesterday, but did have an inspired idea re using up those unsweetened and heavy chocolate muffins. This also led to another discovery, but first things first.
Remembered that in the past I used to make Savarin/Rum Babas, with this yeasty 'cake' then left in the tin to be liberally soaked in a sugar syrup, so as I had a jar of home-made sugar syrup in the larder, decided to pour some of that into a shallow dish and stand several choc. muffins (sans paper cases) in the syrup. After leaving them for a while they had soaked up quite a bit of syrup. Felt it would have worked better if I had used hot syrup, but too late then.

Anyway, the last batch of sugar syrup I'd made had been obviously rushed, for the bottom of the jar had about an inch of sugar crystals in the base. This happens if the sugar has not been dissolved thoroughly, and even just one or two crystals left will start them 'forming' again. When melting sugar, we should always 'swirl' the pan and NOT stir, as just one or two crystals on the side of the pan or spoon can get caught up again when pouring/mixing.

So - decided to dissolved the remaining sugar in the syrup by putting the jar (sans lid) in the microwave for (an estimated) four minutes. Then wandered off to have a sit down while it got on with the job.
Some time later returned to discover the crystals HAD now dissolved, but I'd obviously allowed too long for in the jar was virtually 'golden syrup'. As I was hoping to pour some of this over the top of the muffins, had to add more water jar and then gave it short bursts in the microwave to bring it back to the thin syrup again - which did happen, although the colour still stayed 'golden'. Anyway, pouring some over the muffins really worked a treat. Beloved (he's allowed that name again today) had a couple, heated for a few seconds in the microwave, with cream poured over.
This way of turning sugar syrup into 'golden syrup' or 'caramel' seems an easier way than just boiling it for yonks on the hob, but would need constant attention when made in the microwave as it could burn very easily. But the potential is there, and something I may work on.

Incidentally, felt a bit alarmed when I read that Scarlet and Wen are intending to make muffins using summer fruits. Am hoping they don't use my banana recipe for the weights of ingredients will be different, and no bicarb is needed. Even so - would probably still end up with an edible muffin, but not the best.
In case I am in time, here is a muffin recipe that uses berries. If using self-raising flour, only one teaspoon of baking powder will be needed. If the fruits are very sweet you could use a little less sugar.
Use any berry fruits, alone or a mixture: blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, cherries etc..
Summer Fruit Muffins: makes 10 -12
10 oz (280g) plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
good pinch of salt
4 oz (100g) granulated sugar
1 egg, beaten
9 fl oz (260ml) milk
3 fl oz (90ml) sunflower oil or melted butter/marg
5 oz (150g) summer berries
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the sugar. In a jug measure the milk and oil, then beat in the egg. Add to the dry mix, stirring until just combined. Gently fold in the berries at the end, using only 2 - 3 strokes.
Spoon immediately into muffin cases and bake for 20 - 25 mins at 180C, 350F, gas 4 (if using frozen fruit allow an extra 4 - 5 minutes.
Variation: as above but omit the baking powder and milk, and substitute 5 fl oz (150ml) soured cream or yogurt, and use 2 tsp baking powder plus half teaspoon bicarbonate of soda. If using self-raising flour use only 1 tsp b. powder and do NOT omit the bicarb.

You are asking why bicarb is used in the banana muffin recipe Cheesepare. Not sure why myself, I was just following the recipe. Different muffin recipes seem to use either baking powder on its own, or b.powder with bicarb. If self-raising flour is used, often the raising agents are omitted altogether. But each recipe is different.
As to your mention re 'apple jam'. In the new varieties to soon hit the supermarket shelves usually the apples are with another fruit. Apple 'jam' would only work if there were bits/chunks of apple suspended in the jam, otherwise it would be much like a thick apple sauce.
It's always been recommended that beansprouts are blanched before eating, but if you 'grow your own' just be aware that there is an ongoing problem with sprouting seeds at the moment. At least rinse them with cold water that has been previously boiled.

Pleased that your second batch of yogurt turned out well Sarah. Not sure if I mentioned it at the time, but when using your own to start a new batch, it's recommended that after about six or so batches it we use a 'fresh/bought' yogurt to begin another 'session'. Think the reason is the keeping quality is better when we do so, and less chance of it gaining a sour taste after a period of time.

Pleased to hear that Approved Foods met up with your satisfaction Mrs. Meaney. Having checked out prices this week it is horrifying how supermarket food prices seem to have risen across the board. The cheap sardines (that I keep mentioning) having risen a third in price over what seems to be a matter of weeks.

It does pay to keep a check on the price of food (and by this I mean each week!). At the moment Tesco's Value eggs are now down to 8p each (previously 10p each) for a box of 15. Buy them 6 to a box and the price then rises to 12p each. Still cheap, but - to those who cook with an eye to saving money - every penny counts.

With the jam season coming up, interesting to discover that Tesco's 'miscellaneous' sugar is 82p per kg bag. But buy a 2kg bag and it works out then at only 61 per kg. Larger bags don't always work out cheaper. A 5 kg bag of sugar is priced at 92p per kg, and not all granulated sugar is the same price (per bag), branded sugars can be very highly priced, possibly because some are made from sugar beet, others from sugar cane. Chefs prefer cane sugar, but to me sugar, is sugar, is sugar, and I always buy the cheapest when I can.
We do have to check all sizes of packaging, and also the weights per kg before we make our final choice.

Flour is another minefield when it comes to choosing which to buy. Notice that while own-brand plain flour is 52p a bag (works out to 1p per ounce if you are interested), branded flours are much more expensive. Saw that a 'fine plain flour' was more that twice the price of the same brand 'plain flour'. Not sure why I would use 'fine' flour (surely sifting the normal plain a couple of times is as good as), but that's how the cookie crumbles (no pun intended).

Was deciding to take advantage of an offer on a pack of 8 flour tortillas - to be used as 'wraps' instead of eating a normal sarnie. But even at the lower price these worked out at 13p EACH. Yet, if a sarnie takes 2 slices of bread and there are 20 slices in a loaf (thus making ), at the price of bread today, these would probably work out much the same as 10 tortilla 'wraps'. BUT, "how much cheaper would it be to make tortillas?", I asked myself. Very much cheaper. Very, very much. Even cheaper than baking a loaf. So - even when one thing compares with another (in way of use and cost when bought), often we can find a way to make at least one of them far cheaper. So always check first before buying, even better - have a think as to whether it is worth buying - especially when you KNOW you can make it yourself.

Looks like we could be having another nice day. After sweltering heat in the south east, apparently yesterday they had rain and thunder. We got away with just sun, sun and more sun - but were due for it. Means watering the container-grown plants each day, but after my iron pills think I can cope with that (B will do it for me otherwise).

Was a bit fed up yesterday when I checked on the courgettes planted outdoors. Those still in the greenhouse were twice the size, and at least two outdoor ones had been eaten completely by the slugs, so planted out more and stood their containers on bricks in a large tray of water (slugs won't cross water) in the hope they won't get munched. Already these larger plants have flower buds. Sowed both green and yellow courgettes, but blow me if I can remember which is which. Have to wait and see.

The Romanesco planted last year (if you remember ending up with all its leaves eaten by either slugs or caterpillars) was left in the container as a long stalk with a couple of leaves at the top. Just forget to uproot it. Find now that after overwintering in all that cold, snow and frost, the stalk has now grown a healthy head of new leaves, and with any luck a Romanesco 'brocciflower' may still appear.

Picked a bowl of strawberries yesterday, so that adds to my daily 'savings'. Am now keeping a record of money saved each day (although savings are not made every day, even writing them down inspires me to try and make more), and am writing this on the same page in my diary as the daily record where I write down the meals B has (yesterday he had roasted veg with a couple of Chicken Kiev's - the sooner I get rid of those the better). So far this week have saved £14.50 (not all by effort, some came from cancelling a hair appointment).

Am hoping to make lemon curd and ice-cream today (and take a photo of both as well) for this will 'save' a great deal compared to if these had been bought over the counter. You might say that on a strict budget we wouldn't be buying these anyway, but at least it shows we should still be able to afford to make them.

With the news that a lot more well-known high street stores are having to close, am wondering if we will ever get back to shopping how it used to be. Eventually it will be ordering everything on-line and having it delivered. Gone will be the days when we used to amble into town for a bit of 'retail therapy', and if we couldn't afford to buy, at least enjoy 'window shopping'.

Sometimes it's difficult for me to visualise how life is these days for the young. Maybe a partner out of work (or on less pay) and still young children to support, let alone mortgage payments to find. Yet - when young ourselves, B and I had it nearly as bad - almost to the point of the bailiffs hammering on the door. So can relate to most of today's issues. Now - as pensioners - with not much call to spend, spend, spend, at least find the State Pension covers our running costs. But for how long? Certainly the rising price of food (not to mention cost of fuel) is making me think long and hard, and very thankful that I've already built up a reasonable store cupboard 'just in case'.
Another good thing is that us old folk don't need to eat such large meals as we used to, so that's a saving in its own way.

On the other hand, although not sure what the child allowance is these days, this should certainly be enough to buy food to feed the whole family (the more children there are, the more the better in this respect). Yet - it always seems that it is the food 'budget' that has to be raided when other bills have to be met. Seems we all need to keep finding ways to eat even more cheaply.

Making muffins may not seem 'healthy eating', yet when made with bananas they could be, and certainly far better to munch a home-made muffin than a bag of crisps. As crisps are around 25p a packet (probably more), we could ask what else could we buy (or make) for that money? All the time we need to compare the price of one product with another. We need now to be sure we are getting the most for our money. Just as long as we don't fall into the trap of buying those 'junk foods' which are often on offer and seem a good buy at the time.

When it comes to our purchases - whether at the supermarket or corner shop - sooner or later we buy that 'little extra' (maybe just a bar of Kit-Kat) and think nothing of it, probably not even including it into our 'food budget', but these little purchases (over time) cost a lot of money. To avoid depriving ourselves of treats (and the need to comfort eat during this time of recession is pretty strong, so we shouldn't dismiss it entirely)), we can make our own for far less price. "But it isn't a treat if we have to bother to make it ourselves" I hear some of you bleat. Well - we can't have everything put on our plate. At least make the treats for someone else AS WELL. They'll love you for that.

Have to say readers, am really getting concerned at the price of food at the moment. In no way can I see the prices reducing again, except when 'on offer', and even thinking that wages will rise again this year to compensate is an improbability to say the least. At least am pretty sure the supermarkets will all fall over backwards lowering prices across the board, just to keep our custom. So we have to take advantage when we can. Otherwise we grit our teeth and carry on cooking. This way we know we can still serve the best for the price that others (who don't cook) will be paying for the worst.

Am almost talking myself into a state of 'it can only get worse'. Believe me - becoming self-sufficient (albeit in a small way) can turn out to be far more fun that having the money to buy what we want when we want. Truly. so let's get on with it.

Keep sending in those comments, let us know the savings you are making, what you grow, what you cook, as these will inspire others to do the same. As with anything mildly 'unpleasant' (like dieting), once a group of like-minded people get together to share their highs and lows, what was 'not nice' then can turn into 'great fun'. And having fun is the name of my cost-cutting game.
So keep writing in and am hoping that tomorrow we will all meet up again. See you then.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Things are never so simple

Yesterday began well but went downhill fast. As you know my intention was to have a big baking session and then report back on savings made. So began by assembling my ingredients on the kitchen table ready to make all sorts of things, beginning with chocolate muffins.
Then my husband (he does not deserve to be called Beloved at the moment) wandered in and asked me to make up some bread mix for him as he wanted to bake another loaf. In all honesty it was two packs of bread mix (one plain, one multigrain) that he wanted mixing together as he didn't like too many grains, and he should have been able to do this himself - but said he couldn't. This done, the mixture divided in half, one left in the bowl for him to use, the other half put into a bag with instructions written on it in marker pen as to how much yeast and water was needed (the two mixes on their own requiring different amounts, so I averaged).

Then I decided not to photograph my baking-session ingredients beforehand, just the end product (if we have the weights, we all know what flour, sugar, egg, milk etc look like).
As with all muffin recipes, weighed out the dry ingredients and sifted them into one bowl, leaving the sugar at the side to be added later. The wet ingredients went into a jug.

Then realised I hadn't got the muffin tin ready. Where was the tin anyway? After several minutes bending down looking into every kitchen cupboard we have, then felt dizzy so had to go and have a sit down for a few minutes. Husband went into the kitchen and came back with a 'muffin-looking' tin which he said was at the back of the cupboard where we keep the saucepans (never thought of looking there), but it wasn't the right one. Eventually it was found on the very top shelf (far too high for me to reach) under other things that almost hid it. It had been put there when my husband moved it from where it stood against the larder wall when he put in another shelf for me.
During that time husband came in to ask me "how much yeast do I need with this new mix?" I said I'd written it on the other packet. He went back into the kitchen, a few minutes later returning to ask "how much water do I need?" My reply being (with a great sigh) "it's written on the other packet".

By the time OH had set the machine working I had 45 minutes to make and bake the muffins, so said I'd be going back into the kitchen to finish my cooking. "Oh" said OH, "I've just moved all your stuff to clear the kitchen table, and sprinkled flour over it so that I can knead the dough when it comes out of the machine".
So my 'dry' muffin ingredients were then discovere in one corner of the kitchen, the jug of 'wet' in another, and no table to work on.
Eventually managed to make up the mix and find space to put the tin (now lined with muffin cases) and once filled put them in the oven to bake. When they came out they did not look as good as expected, but not that bad (after eating one last night realised I'd forgotten to put in the sugar - this my OH had moved to another part of the kitchen away from the 'dry' so why I forgot - and so will have to find a use for these muffins - which will not be difficult), but decided to make another batch - this time banana muffins as had several very, very ripe bananas that needed using up.

Luckily these turned out well, and you can see the end product in the photo beneath. The recipe will be given. Costings were taken as using the cheapest flour, cheapest eggs, the full price of the bananas even though these (being almost at throw-away state could probably have bought them cheaper from a greengrocer (maybe given free - so always worth asking), did cost the 'fat' at butter price (allowing 33p as could not be bothered to work out the cost of oil that I used instead - although it would certainly be cheaper) the rest average price, which brought the total cost to 76p for the nine (under 9p each).

Our local bakery sells muffins for 75p EACH, and have seen muffins priced at over £1 in a cafe. Am prepared to work with supermarket prices which are lower - and can vary - but average out at 40p each. So working on that, my nine muffins (and I have to say these are some of the best I've ever tasted) would have cost me £3.60p to buy. So home-made has saved me £2.84p.
Incidentally, these banana muffins are beautifully moist, so will keep better than the normal muffin that is best eaten the same day of baking. But as muffins freeze well, worth making a batch.

Yesterday, worked out that if we can save £20 a week by our own efforts, that means we could save over £1,000 a year. Perhaps a challenge that is a bit too difficult to accomplish (it would mean saving an average of around £3 a day), but already this week the muffins have already 'saved' me nearly £3, and have cancelled my hair this week, and if I make lemon curd and ice-cream today (the two are made together as you will find out), and marmalade later in the week, pick some strawberries and redcurrants....will already have saved two week's worth in just a few days.

Other savings can be made by planning ahead. Maybe scouring car-boot sales and charity shops to find the perfect Christmas or birthday present that might normally have cost ££££s more if bought elsewhere. And don't forget the Christmas Hampers we cooks can make up to give away as gifts. Filled with small pots of what we probably had made too much of anyway, you could say these cost virtually nothing to put together. Incidentally, if you have a paper shredder, then shred up anything that has a metallic lining (like sweet wrapper or crisps packets). These make good 'packing' for Christmas Hampers etc.

You will like my muffin recipe. These really do taste wonderful, and although it was my adaptation of a basic recipe, was very impressed myself. If you don't have a muffin tin/paper muffin cases, use a tart tin with 'fairy cake' cases and you will then make at least a dozen if not more from the one batch (reduce the cooking time by a few minutes if making them smaller).
For best flavour and texture always use well-ripened bananas (the ones that are 'squishy' inside and not really fit for any other use than perhaps making a smoothie). Ripe bananas can be frozen for later use. The skins will turn black, but after thawing then skinning, the flesh is perfect for cooking. So never throw ripe bananas away!

If you use self-raising flour, then omit the baking powder. Do NOT omit the bicarb.
Banana Muffins: makes 9
8 oz (225g) plain flour (cheapest will do)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
good pinch of salt
2 large very ripe bananas
3 oz (75g) granulated sugar
1 egg, beaten
3 fl oz (75ml) sunflower oil or 3 oz butter
2 fl oz (60ml) milk or water
Sift the flour, raising agents and salt together into one large bowl. In another bowl mash the bananas until virtually a puree (it doesn't matter if it has a few lumps left), then add the egg and sugar and mash these into the banana, then work in the oil and water/milk. Pour this into the dry mixture and stir until just combined. It doesn't matter if there are lumps, but no dry flour should be visible. DO NOT OVERMIX.
Fill muffin tins (lined with paper cases) with the mixture and bake for 20 -25 mins at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until the tops are golden and spring back when lightly pressed. They can be left in the muffin tin to cool, or remove to a cake airer.
Best eaten on the day of making, but will keep a couple of days in an airtight tin, and will freeze beautifully. When thawed they are particularly nice when slightly warmed up in the microwave.

To your comments.
Good to have your recommendations re the Quorn 'fish' products Sue15cat. Do they work out cheaper than 'real' fish, which today is as expensive as some of the best meats? If cheaper, then it might be worth us non-vegetarians changing to using Quorn.

Hope the sale of your house goes smoothly Alison. It's a slow market at the moment, but looking on the bright side, once you have sold your house you will be in a very good position to negotiate the price of the property you wish to buy. People who have 'no chain' can usually are able to knock thousands off the asking price because in today's market a 'quick sale' is as rare as hen's teeth. Sometimes it can take years to sell a house when buyers have first to sell theirs, and so on down the 'chain'.

Whatever cheap jam says on the label, can bet your bottom dollar it is not made from 'whole fruits' Eileen. Usually a mish-mash puree type. Am pretty sure the 'apple jam' mentioned yesterday will be of very good quality, but then we can still make our own - very high quality - preserves that still cost little or no more than the cheapest.

If your yogurt didn't end up as thick as you wished Sarah, try making it again using a Greek yogurt as a starter Sarah. Also if your's is a bit 'runny', then you will probably find the next batch thinner still. Think you really need a tablespoon of yog to start it off, your 2 teaspoons may not be enough (but not sure how much you were wishing to make in the first place). You could work a thicker yogurt into a thinner one, then bring to the right heat and start it 'yogging' again. Never any need to discard thin yogurt as it is good eaten with muesli, or mixed with a little mayo to spoon over salads and use as a dressing. You could even melt a pack of jelly in a little water and make it up to the pint with the yogurt - ending up with a type of 'panna cotta'. And of course it can be used in cooking, adding to cakes instead of milk, or quiches instead of cream.

Regarding the supermarket that has the cheapest prices. Of the 'big five' (Asda, Morrison's, Tesco, Sainsburys, Waitrose) according to the trade mag. Asda came out on top. The cost of the 33 items in their 'shopping basket' (and as you know this did include foods few of us would buy) came to £64.41p. The same foods at the others stores would have been £64.73 at M's; £67.39 at S; £69.59 at T; and £74.74 at W.
However SOME foods were cheaper in one store than another (i.e. lettuce 78p at Asda, 50p at M.) so whichever store we chose to go to it's 'win some, lose some', and the store that comes out top will change from week to week. Last week it was Asda, the previous week it was Morrisons ( cheaper by £3) but this time with different items in the basket).

The problem is - with the contents of the shopping basket changing each week - we cannot really get a true idea of which is the best supermarket to patronise. Each will give offers that others don't, but then they soon follow suit, so it's a real mine-field to know where we should place our feet. Even the trade mag doesn't really help as it gives results only on the previous weeks 'basket'. Offers will have come and gone in the meantime.
Possibly the only way to find out the best store to shop at the time is to type in our 'shopping list' onto the website that helps sort it out for you. Not that I can be bothered to do this - Tesco already being more than generous with its double points and £41 of money-off my on-line orders (within a certain period of time - some of which have already been used/spent but still £18 left).

Pleased to read you were happy with your free chicken carcases Polly. Half a lb (225g) of usable cooked chicken is not to be sneezed at (and you managed some extra as cat food as well). Plus the chicken stock. Just shows what we can get for free when we know how.
As to your scones. Not sure what recipe you use, but the problem may be more in the mixing. Scone 'dough' should be fairly soft, and not at all dry. It should then be kneaded only lightly, and rolled out gently to about an inch thick. If cut into rounds, always dip the cutter into flour before pressing into the dough (this prevents it sticking) and don't twist the cutter before removing (or the scones will then twist when cooking and end up a very strange shape). Bake in a hot oven for (I think) about 12 minutes, and they should rise well enough. After cooking they normally have a natural 'split' halfway up the scone in just the right place to pull apart or cut, to then spread with butter, jam, cream or what you will. In some areas butter is not used, cream is spread first on the scone, the jam then placed on top. In other areas it is the jam on buttered scones, with the cream on top.

This has reminded me of yet another way to save money. Maybe only a bit at a time, but over the months could be several £££s.
When we make sarnies (or topping savoury biscuits) the main reason why we spread butter on the bread/biscuit is to protect it from any moist filling that would make the bread/biscuit go soggy. But it doesn't have to be the expensive butter/marg. We could instead spread the bread with mayonnaise, a soft (pref-low fat) cream cheese, or even tomato puree/ketchup. these are good with a salad filling. With a meat filling we could spread with redcurrant jelly (lamb) cranberry sauce (chicken/turkey), horseradish sauce (beef), or tartare sauce (fish).

Having eaten 'hospital sarnies' that had good fillings but nothing spread on the bread, found these to be very 'dry' and unpleasant to eat (mainly meat or cheese, salads would have been too 'wet'), but as long as we provide something to give 'mouth appeal' such as the above suggestions, this can be a good and cheaper substitute for the more expensive (and less healthy) 'fats'.

Do we always need to make a sandwich using two slices of bread. We COULD instead make a 'club sandwich', that although using three slices of bread, one of these 'clubs' stands in for two normal 'rounds' of sarnies (which would then take four slices of bread). Also we could serve 'open sandwiches' where the filling is piled on top of just one round of bread as the Scandinavians do. The name for these is something like 'smorgasbord'.

Seems the south east of the country yesterday was basking in extreme heat. Not so here - warm enough, but not THAT warm. Not that I got a chance to go outside for wished to watch Andy Murray play during the afternoon where again my OH needed to be 'considered'.
Well, he likes to think he makes bread all by himself, but after yesterday when I had to make up the bread mix for him, tell him the bread-maker had 'bleeped' to say the dough was ready (he being too deaf to hear although he says he is not deaf), then later clear the table of all the flour he had left there after turning out the dough (to shape then put into the tin), then - during the afternoon - having to remember to wake him to remind him to check whether the dough was nearly risen enough to be baked (it wasn't. Why is it his takes so much longer than mine to rise?). THEN having to wake him to switch the oven on, THEN having to wake him to remind him to put the bread in the oven, THEN having to wake him again to tell him the time allowed for the bread to be baked was passed.... I really think it would be far simpler if he left me to make the bread myself. I really don't feel he has made the bread 'all by himself' if all the time he needs reminding to do this that and the other.

Problem is with my husband, the minute he sits down and relaxes, he nods off, and as I said to him yesterday "when cooking, you have to be on the ball ALL the time. You just can't leave things to sort themselves out, you need to be constantly checking timings etc". Of course, cooking isn't really as bad as that, lots of things we can leave to get on with by themselves (slow-cookers for example), but felt he needed to realise he has to think a bit more about what he is doing/has done. He has always relied on me to get him out of any trouble he is in (cooking or otherwise) and perhaps time I left him to sort his own problems out. Trouble is I can't bear anything to be spoiled or wasted.

Looks like being a glorious day today, and maybe will spend more time outside and less in the kitchen (just for once). Feel I need a break. Don't remember the last time I had a holiday, must be at least 10 years ago, although as B says, "moving to Morecambe seems like being on holiday". Well, maybe it is if you can get out and about, which I can't easily. Perhaps a holiday on a cruise ship would be more suited to my life-style, although as I get sea-sick just being in a boat on flat sea-water (doesn't even have to have a wobble), maybe that's not such a good idea. Oddly though, find cruising the canals doesn't seem to make me ill.

Time now for me to go and put a load of washing into the machine. Then clear the kitchen decks, MAYBE think about making lemon curd/ice-cream (possibly this will be done this afternoon), then take a cup of coffee out into the garden with a banana muffin to sit and contemplate, before getting up and watering what needs to be watered. Possibly picking more strawberries. Life could be worse.

Hope you can join me again tomorrow. See you then.

Monday, June 27, 2011

We Start Again...

Thanks for comments. Let us know how the fruit cake turned out when made in your bread-maker Cheesepare, I (personally) have my doubts it will as good as oven-baked, but then as I've never made cakes in mine, how would I know?

Recipe for using chicken should now have appeared back on site Woozy (March '09), the one covering chicken salads had to be wiped to give room for the other 'meats', but enough there I hope to satisfy your needs.

Not sure how warm it was here yesterday. Beloved went off to Leeds to meet up with his old sailing mates at their annual 'Commodore's Weekend' (with buffet), so left early. As I had two packets of crisps left from the previous day that B had brought me, decided to start the day with those. Half an hour later discovered they upset my tum, so had to take to my bed where I lay shivering until at least noon. The sun came out later, and it did seem a bit warmer, but even though I got up early afternoon, still did not feel too good, so went back to bed and stayed there until this morning. Now feeling completely better of course.

If only Beloved would do as he is asked. I requested he brought me in Walker's crisps as these seem to give me no problem whatever the flavour (and B was told this), so what did he do - bring me in a big mixed pack of spicy-flavoured crisps of another brand! He dangled these in front of me and said "will this be OK?" and I said "I suppose so". Did eat some on Saturday and had no problem, but the two remaining were a different flavour, so perhaps that is where the problem lay - different spices.
From now on think I'll stop eating crisps altogether.

Anyway, the good news is that today discover I have now reached and dropped below that 'mile-stone' I was telling you about. So once I have lost another 6 lbs will happily eat what I wish just aiming not to gain enough to put me back 'over the top'.

At least, lying in bed gave me ample time to consider my blog and where to go next with it. Thought it might be a good idea to see how much can be made from 'basic' ingredients I already have (this means no actual money need be spent), yet still work to a set price (say £5). This means costing out just the amounts used. A photo will be taken of the ingredients before used, another after they have been 'made-up'. But that's not the end of the story. Then comparison costing will be done to find out how much the products made would have cost me if bought over the counter. Only then will it prove how much cheaper it is to make at home rather than buy, as well as showing how our stores can 'work for their living'.

Once that is done will - within the next few days - probably do a 'meat challenge': possibly buying a chicken, a small gammon, and some brisket. Photo these raw. Then portion the bird, then make stock, show the meat from the carcase, cook the gammon and brisket, slice both and show how much, then again compare prices against the supermarket packs of similar. May leave the chicken breasts on the carcase, then roast and slice these too.
Supermarket packed cooked meats, and also chicken joints are very expensive for what we get, so am hoping that by showing in photo-form what we can end up with (and the savings made), might inspire others to have a go.

Forgot to cancel the trade mag, and it appeared on our doormat with the paper, and have to say it may not be everyone's idea of a good read, but to me - the Queen of Cost-Cutters - it does give some useful information.
This week (maybe every week) they give a 'shopping basket' of 33 items, showing how much each cost at the four major supermarkets. Now, don't know who makes up this basket, but at least a quarter of the items would never see the light of day in my trolley as these would probably be bought only by those who have the money in the first place, such as: Bahlsen Leibniz Biscuits (cheapest at Asda for £1.35); Guylian Belgian Chocolate Sea Shells (again Asda £3.00); Magnum Classic Ice-cream (Morrison's £2.29); Mr. Kipling French Fancies (Morrison's £1.20); Oyster Bay Wine (Asda £8.98); and several others that I wouldn't buy but you might (sweet potatoes, Orangina, finger rolls...).

My ghasted was flabbered when I saw that Tesco's own brand sardines had risen again by another 8p, their price now being 49p a can (Asda price 41p). But still these are far cheaper than the branded sardines. Sooner or later these will be 'on offer' (says she hopefully), time then to buy a dozen more cans (we still have 9 left in the larder, bought when they were 35p).

An advert amused me. This for "an exciting innovation in salad". Shows different packets of assorted salad leaves (iceberg, mixed, green leaf etc), and on the bag it says "simply washed in warm and then cold water to guarantee natural freshness for 2 days once opened".
Well, excuse me for breathing, but surely bagged salads on sale now normally keep that long anyway once opened (when kept in the fridge). Considering the price charged for these 'prepared' leaves, it is far cheaper for us to buy (say) a whole iceberg lettuce (which is about the same price as one bag of leaves), keep it in the fridge, then tear off the leaves as needed. An iceberg, properly stored, will keep well for at least two weeks (in our fridge often 3 - 4).

In the newspaper yesterday there was a "seed alert over E.coli." Apparently a seeds merchant had (allegedly) supplied contaminated sprouting seeds (whether in just seed form or sprouting was not said, and am assuming they were already sprouting), which led to several people in France being made ill. The advice now is not to eat any sprouting seeds raw (such as alfalfa, bean sprouts, fenugreek etc) but that "they should be cooked thoroughly until steaming hot". Which sort of defeats the object as their useful (and soluble) vitamins then end up in the cooking water. Perhaps steaming them is the best way.

Vegetarians may be interested to know that Quorn are now about to offer us some 'fish-type' products. Can't say the thought appeals to me, but it might to some.
And (this I can't believe to be true but it is), a company is now about to launch an egg brand targeted at home bakers "to tap into the growing consumer interest in home-baking". Hence The Ella Valentine eggs (£1.29 for six) that are 'being rolled out to the multiples over the coming weeks). Apparently the egg market has discovered "a gap that isn't being exploited is the way in which eggs could be used".
It just shows that when suppliers feel we need to be told that an egg should be used when baking, and then supplies us with "the right ones", something very wrong is happening in the food industry.

A minor point of interest is that 69% of consumers had bought raw baking ingredients in the past year, with four million shoppers baking from scratch at least once a month. In my mother's day it was 100% buying the raw ingredients, baking done AT LEAST once a week, probably a lot more often. How things have changed (and not for the better).

One final little gem. A new range of 'apple jam' will be arriving on Tesco's shelves shortly. Apparently "apple and jam are the two most iconic products enjoyed by the Brits, yet the two have never been combined as a commercially made food". There will be quite a range of flavours (all with apple) to spread on toast or to eat with meats and cheese. My interest lies with the 'Apple and Strawberry', and 'Apple and Blueberry', mainly because with 'apple' being the first name, more apple is probably used that the other fruits named, and as apples are much cheaper....! Say no more. Nevertheless, for this 'new idea' for preserves, these will be on sale at £1.99p for a 295g pot (less than 12 oz). So why don't we start to make our own?
(A footnote to this, one of the varieties mentioned is "Apple, Rudebarb and Ginger". Was that a spelling error? Or a name to catch the eye? But then I've been making Rhubarb and Ginger jam for years, so now will add a little apple as well, and with home-grown 'rudebarb' (will now always call it that) and apples, it shouldn't cost much more than 25p a jar.

Methinks today will be baking day, so had better get my thinking cap on and decide what to make. The sun is shining, so hope will also find time to go and sit outdoors, but work comes first. Really should finish off the last of the 'post pruning', but as when too much of the same food ia eaten within a short time, I've lost the taste for it, so will deal with that later. At least plenty has been brought back to read again (or maybe even for the first time).
Believe it or not re-discovered many hints and tips that I'd completely forgotten about, so reading these again has helped me too.

Time also that I peeled away the veil of invisibility from my eyes and took a long hard look at the living room and this dining room, both sadly in need of 'tidying up'. It's surprising what we don't care to notice, but when the doorbell rings - suddenly we see the mess in all its glory. Have always admired Quentin Crisp who once said "if you leave the dust lying for a month or two, then it never seems to get any worse". How true!

Apparently half the weight in our well-used pillows comes from all the dust, dead skin, dead mites etc these have collected over the years (even when covered regularly with a clean pillowcase). Wondered why my pillow seemed to be getting heavier, thought this was because I was getting older and weaker. Perhaps time to buy a new one. But then, me being so old, why bother? As long as I can lie there and not hear something moving under my head, then should be safe enough.

It's only just after 9.00am so if I make a start now, and the weather holds, just might manage to have the afternoon free for a bit of sun-bathing. It's about time, the past weeks have been more like November weather, and that's being unkind to November, perhaps I should say February. It would be so nice if we could have a climate where we knew it would be fairly warm and dry for a few months (as in some countries). We have to wait for eleven years between our 'summer droughts' (due to sunspots).

Have read that in either the spring or autumn (or maybe both) of 2012 (that's next year), there will be solar flares of magnitude that could disrupt our communication systems for a while. That'll be fun. Only noticeable these days because we now have such advanced technology that these 'flares' will affect. But as solar flares are very common (but the larger ones do not appear so often - and probably few in our recent life-time) normally pass by unnoticed (unless you are lucky enough to see the Northern Lights). In the old days, when no-one had mobile phones or computers, it was probably only the 'mains' electricity that 'blew its fuse' and only then in some countries. Before that - when there was no electricity, no-one would ever know there had been a 'flare'. Yet, as an inch of snow on the ground can cause our nation to grind to a halt, when anything disrupts out life, panic can start. Believe me, there are worse things in life than doing without the use of a mobile phone for a day or two. Stock up with household candles (and matches), read a book instead of watching TV. Cook on a barbie instead using an electric oven. Enjoy life as it used to be. Discover that every cloud has its silver lining.
Not that things will probably happen anyway. Just gives me something to write about.

With that will leave you for today (it is now 9.30am) and will go and clear the kitchen decks to start my latest 'challenge'. Hope to have something useful to report back to you tomorrow. Hope to see you then.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Cheesepare, have deleted enough of May to bring back the Boil and Bake recipe. Scroll down May and it will be the last posting shown (still have more to delete but that can wait).

Nearly There!

Just about finished. After working down, yesterday met up with the earlier blogs that had been cleared and so virtually all have been now pruned with the exception of the most recent couple of months. Have checked for the Boil and Bake recipe for you Cheesepare, and see this is on the 16th May (last month) and though I tried clearing some of the earlier days of that month before I began today's blog, found still more has to be done. It takes me a good 12 hours to prune down just one month, so decided the rest of May will have to wait or it will be too late for me to write anything at all today. Hopefully, by tomorrow will have brought it back for you.

The main index (March 2009) was exceedingly difficult to prune. In the end had to delete cake, biscuits, and desserts, also soups, but did manage to bring back the beef, pork, chicken, lamb, fish. Also kept Preserves.
Many of these missing-index recipes still remain on the site, it just means they have to be searched for, or if you remember something you want and it's been deleted anyway, just let me know and I'll give the recipe again.

Did make a note that postings worth looking up are: Baking Bread (9th and 10th May '09); and a couple of good basic cake recipes (one for a tray-bake) that can be made into umpteen others, these on 4th Aug. '08, and 13th Nov. '07.
There is a useful posting about Slow Cookers (aka crock-pots) on 30th Nov. '09, and a Yogurt 'Masterclass' on 23rd June '09.
The recipe for my soft-scoop ice-cream is on 18th May '09.

If into making cakes and ice-cream, yogurt and bread, then worth keeping a note of these dates.

As nothing was again done yesterday apart from almost completing my 'post-pruning' (B had to get his own supper AGAIN - he could only seem to manage bacon sarnie!), and watering the plants in the greenhouse.
Have to say when stepping outdoors, could not believe how cold it was. No wonder all the bedding plants are refusing to flower, this time last year they were a mass of colour. It makes me wonder if things will improve or whether we will now be faced with an even colder winter.
With still more threats of the price of fuel continuing to rise, we really have to start thinking long and hard how to save enough money to pay to keep ourselves warm.

Don't worry too much about overspending your budget Aileen, as long as some of the foods you buy are for storage (larder and freezer), then sooner or later you will be using these, which should mean you then end up spending less.
Myself find working with a monthly budget works best - this way 'extra' can be spent when it's worth doing (on offers, bulk purchases etc) and other times live from what was bought previously. This is why I like to place an order monthly from Tesco, always keeping within my budget, but taking advantage of any foods that will increase my stores. Within a few months usually manage to go several weeks without having to buy any food at all other than replacing the 'fresh' (usually milk, eggs, salads). Hopefully past posts will show this works well.

As mentioned above Cheesepare, you should find the missing cake recipe returning to your screen any day now. Sorry for the delay. I'll get there eventually.
Will try to put up more photos. There was one of my soft-scoop ice-cream but it didn't do it justice. Next time I make some (which should be very soon as B deserves a treat after having to cater for himself this last week) will take a photo. If nothing else it will show how much can be made from so little.

Unfortunately Jane, my weight has still not gone below the stone marker. Due entirely to the fact that yesterday I ate 3 pkts of crisps that B brought for me (plus 2 Kit-Kats), and the salt has made me retain water that would normally have poured away. By next weekend should have turned the corner and be a few pounds more lighter.

It's not that I'm now on any type of diet Woozy, it's just that I'm eating a lot less, and probably because I seem to have lost my appetite. At one time could eat just one chocolate, then continue eating until the whole box was empty. Same with a packet of biscuits. Since I've had to cut out sugar, don't really get the chance to indulge, yet even though did have two Kit-Kats yesterday, there are still some left, also some crisps that - in the past - I would have eaten 'just because they were there'. Seems that at long last have got control of my appetite and manage to eat just enough at any one time. Not necessarily the right things if yesterday was anything to go by, but was to exhausted to even make myself an omelette.

Have been a bit annoyed with B as he knows I've hardly had anything to eat this last week (being stuck in front of the comp) yet when he comes in and says he'll make his own meal, he never asks if he could make me something as well. Yes, I could suggest he did, but me being me, would never do that. In the past when ever I've mentioned something like this (not necessarily to do with food) the reply has always been "well, why didn't you ask? My feeling (and sometimes say this) is "why should I HAVE to ask?". Suppose this is the difference between men and women. We see what is needed then set about doing it, they won't even bother to look in case it causes them more work. Next time I return to earth am thinking about being a man.

Not really much else to write about and it's not yet 8.00am. With Gill phoning at nine might as well finish now so am not having to wait to publish, and then have time to get on trying to put back the Boil and Bake recipe, so worth looking Cheesepare to see if it HAS returned.

Somehow all of June of 2009 seems to have disappeared completely, not sure why, but it was then that we were preparing to move, and also had some probs with the comp, so probably no reason to keep the postings. If I find some remain on the 'edit index' page (it now shows only what postings remain) should be able to put the ones I thought I kept, back onto this site.

Have tried to keep in all the hints and tips I felt worth giving, although some of these have probably been repeated. My main aim being to delete all the 'ramblings'. As you say Cheesepare, these did give a lot of insight into how we live today, and possibly could have been read with more interest in a hundred years from now. That's the problem with modern technology. Words can more easily and rapidly written down, but just as easily wiped out. The old fashioned way of writing down by hand is much the best way to keep a written record of our lives.
Suppose I could go back to my files and type it all out but really can't be bothered. Doubt my family would be interested in doing so. All I can say is that first-born has stored all computer contents on a special machine so that it can be transferred to another hard-drive if this breaks down. That's as near to keeping a record of what has been written as I am prepared to go.

So now another day begins. My aim this week is to start cooking again. Maybe even taking photos. Or today may just take a break and do as little as possible. Think I deserve it.
Hope you all have a good weekend. Join me tomorrow. See you then.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Not Long Now...!

After another day long session (finishing 7.30pm - then bed at 10.00pm and only stayed up because I wanted to watch the Andy Murray match), managed to prune all of 2010, so having worked both from the bottom up and the top down, have only the postings in 2009 to sort out. Seems from my blogger details from the time I began had written approx 2000 postings, and over 3000 recipes in the index (that itself only up to March 'o9) so you can see it's been a marathon job 'tidying' it all up.

Unfortunately (or not according to what you hope to read) many of the past postings contain only recipe or two, sometimes only one. Yet others still remain with few or no recipes but with plenty of hints and tips, and am just hoping that everyone is happy with this.

What did surprise me (although suppose it shouldn't considering how long I've been writing) is that a lot of what I say now has been said in the past. All that guff yesterday about vegetarian food for animals I found was in one of the earlier postings of 2010. Also a lot of hints and tips had been given again over the years. Perhaps more recently because they had disappeared, but now they are back again may have to 'fine tune' some of the postings to remove duplicates.

There was one posting on 29/04/10 (Stretching the Pennies) that I kept in as it seemed as though it might be useful in the light of some comments sent in recently. As prices continue to rise, there will be similar postings given on how to save, for as prices go up and up, there will be more need to keep our payments going down and down.

Thanks for letting us know how far your £5 went Woozy, and because you mentioned you like pikelets, find the two recipes for making these have been kept on the site. One recipe uses a bread mix, the other is made from scratch, but neither need kneading and the mixture does make a lot (once baked surplus pikelets can be frozen).
Did buy some 'pikelet rings' to cook them (in a large frying pan), but they are smaller than the 'pikes' we buy, so suggest either using metal scone cutters, or make your own rings with thick cardboard that has been covered with a double layer of foil. These work just as well as the proper ones.

Being faced with a huge bill for car repairs does tend to focus our attention on to how the food budget often has to cope with bills like that. Yet, it is surprising how much can be made from food we already have in store, and why it IS so important that all of us - from time to time - should 'stocktake'. Once full lists have been made, as long as we are prepared to mark off what is removed, and put down what is replaced, then no further stock-taking needs to be done as we then always have a full record of what we have each day.
I tend to write a tick for each can of beans, then cross through (to make an 'X') when used, perhaps the easier way is to write down the total number of cans of beans in my larder (say 173 - just joking), and cross that out and write the amount left at the side, in ever decreasing numbers as they go down.

As it does seem that it IS only certain processed foods that cause my tummy upsets Urbanfarmgirl, then perhaps this is the same with your husband, but if he finds ALL foods upset him, then perhaps a check-up is called for. Dyspepsia can lead to worse problems if not dealt with early enough (this I say after reading about it recently in the paper). Gastric ulcers too can give lot of pain, and certain foods have to be avoided.

Pleased to read that you also role play MimsyS, so I'm not mad after all! And I bet you find it works and is a very enjoyable way to get work done that you wouldn't enjoy as 'you'!

Our water butt has a tap near the bottom Les, and an overflow tap at the top to drain surplus into the drain next to it. As the house we live in (albeit the bottom part only) all the guttering around the expanse of roof tends to run most of the rain water into the butt, so it is rarely empty. Certainly not this year. Day after day it rains. It is raining now. Only April was warm and sunny, and not a lot of outdoor plants needed watering then. We also have mains tap at the side of our greenhouse (avoid using that if possible as we have water meter), and plenty of buckets, and empty (large) containers strategically placed around the garden that we can empty in to some of the containers near by. Still have to carry water to some of them though.

Finding quite a few photos on this site, decided to keep those that might be useful. Deleted those that showed our kitchen in Leeds, and also the rooms in the apartment we live now. They had little to do with food, so why keep them? Still have them in my 'photo file' so can be replaced if necessary.
What I did keep were the photos of the several 'home-made' Christmas decorations, gift boxes, and gifts that cn be made as it's far easier to work out 'how to do' when seeing them, rather than relying on just the instructions.

By tomorrow my weight loss should have reached six and a half stone! So am hoping very much that I will be able to totter around Aldi (using one or two sticks) to find out if they have better bargains than the larger stores. They may even have a wheel chair that can be borrowed. Morrison's have a 'scooter' they lend out, but as ever, it is first come first served. I do not wish to have to go to the expense of having to buy a folding scooter or even a folding wheelchair. My aim is to do without either.

Have to say that losing weight at speed does not do much for my appearance. If I'd done this when in my forties, possibly would have 'tightened' up as I went. Now I look more and more like a deflated balloon. All stretch and no substance! Have a feeling that if wear a sleeveless top and then flap my arms I will look like a manta ray (or even worse - a bat) and end up flying along the street. Well, one way to get there without walking! And not putting myself down again (as Les seems to think I do), more joking about what happens when we leave it too late in life to start shrinking.
Men don't usually have this problem - due to all the heavy things they regularly lift (like bar-bells in gyms and pint mugs in pubs). All their weight seem to go to their bellies (beer usually the cause of this).
As what they now call 'bingo-wings' always appear on ladies who are 'fully-fronted', anyone well endowed would be advised to start doing exercises to tone up those arms before it is too late. Nature may give us what may seem to be a splendid gift at the time, but like many gifts, once the wrapping is off and time has taken its toll, if we don't look after it properly we are left with something very tatty that might - or might not - still work.

Why is it that such wisdom is only discovered once we are too old for it to matter? Sometimes life is just not fair. Yet, when we were much younger, our parents were there to give us good advice - so why didn't we listen? It was ever thus, always has been and always will be.

The 'A' key on my keyboard keeps sticking, not sure why. This reminds me of when the 'E' broke off on my very old typewriter and every thing I wrote had to be worded it so that no 'e' needed to be used. Surprisingly it wasn't that difficult (this last sentence has no 'e'e in it). Had I said "Eek! it wasn't easy to write everything without an 'e' ...! that would have 7 'e's'.
Just let us hope I don't now have to do without using the 'a' key. Nevertheless, a challenge that might be worth the attempt if I have nothing better to do.

Today will be concentrating on sorting out 2009 - this having the dreaded index, and to try and bring back as much as possible will probably have to re-write each one, putting 2 recipes on one line (the second in a different colour) to see if that gives me more 'room'. Obviously it will, but so far it doesn't seem to have made any difference. Perhaps once published that is that, and only by deleting a complete posting does it give more space. As all the index should still be in my document file, can always write the missing ones up, but that won't keep the whole lot all together.
Let us hope that canny readers have copied the few indexes (yes I know that should be 'indices' but am not educated like some) that were there (March 2009) before they began being deleted. For that matter is the plural of octopus, octopusses, octopods or octopi? And do I even care?

Am really looking forward to the completion of 'pruning'. It's been a hard slog, almost what you might call true tunnel vision as I have been looking at nothing but the screen for hours on end. But now - nearly a the end - feel it will be a job well done, despite the possibility of having removed something that should have stayed. But as I keep telling myself, as it couldn't be found to be read in the first place, no-one is likely to realise that. At least am hoping a lot more is back that is worth the reading.

What will I do with my 'spare time' once I have departed this seat? Probably start working on a new challenge. The thought crossed my mind that I could start 'costing' again, and work out the difference in 'home-made' re 'bought'. Not always easy, as one product can be bought at very low price (let's say marmalade) yet a good quality one be very expensive indeed. We have to realise that 'home-made' is normally of excellent quality, so although we could buy a cheap form, by spending no more than a few pennies (or perhaps not even that) we can make much the same and give our families 'the best' (and without those dreaded additives and preservatives that are making so many of us ill these days). Know which makes sense.

As ever this does take more of our time, and the lucky few are those who perhaps are - at the moment - out of a job or not working for some reason, for then we have all the time in the world. Like it used to be in the old days. Certainly with nothing on TV at the moment but tennis, this has freed me from being chained to the 'goggle box', and left me with time to do the 'pruning', and although there have been progs. I might have enjoyed, find I'm not missing these either. Have even missed a soap or two (having to lie down due to stomach pains), and can (suppose) always catch up with the omnibus edition (but not really bothered to do that).

Having mentioned the 'craft' photos and Christmas. Despite this being only the start of summer, think I'm right in believing we've had the longest day and the nights are already starting to 'draw in'. Not sure why, but they seem to draw in a lot faster than they went out. So perhaps not a bad idea to start preparing for some of the winter 'festivities'.

Was thinking last night about work I did as a 'food stylist' with a photographer in Manchester. He was given a Food Hamper (as sold by firms that provide Christmas Hampers - pay a bit each week and come Christmas all the food we need should be delivered).
Being able to work with all the food in the hamper proved to me that probably only half would be needed anyway. There was far too much, even though some could be stored (although now - with rising prices - if the Hamper price stays as advertised, then it is unlikely the foods it contains will be recently bought. So their shelf-life might be short. As these are expected to be eaten over the festive season, probably doesn't matter. But if there is surplus, then there might be a problem).
As always, it is the convenience of having it all provided for us when time is short, and because these Hampers are paid for in dribs and drabs, we often don't notice how much the true cost is. Like twice how much it would cost us to buy much the same for ourselves. And a lot less if we kept to only the things we would really need at that time.

Point I'm trying to make is it is WE who should decide exactly what we want to serve over the Twelve Days and we can start working this out now. Write another list (add to it when we find we have forgotten something). Think it's about six months to Christmas, so working on buying just one packet, jar or can a week to hide away in a 'Christmas Cupboard' should give us enough to see us through this financially bleak time. Starting now also gives us the chance to buy at the lowest price when 'on offer'.

Preparing some decorations could now be done, or at least gathering together 'the makings' (including glue, staples, scissors etc) so that everything is to hand when needed. We can start keeping the brightly coloured grocery 'flyers' that come through our letterbox - these can turn into great decorations. Once we have foraged all the berries we need, we can then start hunting for pine-cones. No end to what is 'out there' that we can use for decoration.

Even a simple chicken can look festive when the skin is 'gilded' (brushing with egg and a bit of HP sauce prior to finishing roasting). Little 'cuffs' made out of baking parchment (or even kitchen paper/foil), can be made to put on the tips of the leg bones. A bit of parsley stuffed into the cavity, the bird put on a big platter, satsuma shells placed around it, alternated with bacon rolls and small sausages (twist full size bangers in half or even three), and this can look pretty impressive. Who needs a turkey?
We don't have to spend more money to enjoy Christmas. Follow the Shirley way and we could end up spending less than a normal week's budget.

Will love you and leave you for today so that I have time to finish the 'prunings'. Once this is done a whole new 'Goode life' will begin. New challenges, different approaches, more hints, tips and explanations. Recipes probably only by request, unless have myself 'invented' a new dish worth sharing.
Will hope to put up more photos as a 'picture is worth a thousand words' and the less words I write the better it seems when it comes to blogger allowing them to remain.

Hope as many as possible will join me over the weekend, and - as always - looking forward to your comments, so keep them coming.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Challenges are not the only Routes

Although a 'see how much you can buy for £5" challenges is an excellent way to searching out the lower priced grocery products, having gone onto Tesco's site today to check prices, realise that when it comes to the fresh fruit and veg, even though this challenge can still work, we have to think a little more carefully before we buy or we may end up spending more than we need. In other words, look at the wider picture.

Firstly, many veggies will store for much longer than a week (especially in a fridge), so it often makes sense to buy packs rather than individual produce when we wish to keep costs down. Produce in packs' can often work out cheaper than buying loose, and enough in the bag to last us at least 2 weeks, often a month. So an initial £10 expenditure could end up working out at only £2.50 a week.

A few examples to prove the point:
A 5 kg pack of Market Value potatoes at £1.89 could last a month, although myself might prefer to buy the 1kg packs of Baby New Potatoes at £1.25 each (for this you get two as they are on BOGOF), as these are better quality. It is said potatoes should not be kept in the fridge, because over time the starches turn to sugar. Myself quite like this 'sweeter' taste of the 'babies', for at least it IS a taste, which is more than you can say for most spuds. The larger spuds are kept in a dark cool place.

Although a Market Value (soft) lettuce is only (only?) 50p, again myself would buy one Iceberg lettuce at twice the price (£1) knowing it would keep at least 3 weeks in the fridge and last far longer than the 'soft'. Best always to buy these in store for then we can pick the one most solid. Another may look larger but weigh less. Why pay for air trapped between the leaves? With any vegetables sold by the unit, always best to weigh to find out the heaviest (always supposing scales are to hand).
With this in thought, perhaps one of those small 'hand scales' that fishermen use might be worth taking to the store so we can do our own weighing.

Pack of Market Value carrots (2 kg) for 76p I know also store well and would probably be more than enough for a month. White cabbage (43p per lb) is also another good keeper.

A pack of cooking onions is probably the cheapest way to buy. We should get at least nine onions for £1 and probably a lot more (easy enough to count when in a clear plastic bag, so if you can find the bag with the most - although some will be smaller than others - buy those). These will keep for more than a month at room temperature.

One parsnip at 37p could be useful, as 1 pack of vacuum beetroot for 67p (which will keep for months if left unopened). Heads of fresh broccoli are shown as "2 for ~£1.50" (so this might work out cheaper to buy it frozen).
A head of celery at 87p with keeping qualities for at least a month in the fridge, is another 'must buy'.

As regards fruit. One banana costs 12p, a bag of Market Value apples (80p) is much cheaper than buying 'named apples' (and they are good, I've had some). A pack of oranges (six in the pack as shown in the picture, but think they often are sold in fours) at £1.25 also useful as they keep fairly well.
A pack of Kiwi fruit for 80p is worth thinking about for each has loads more Vit C than one orange, the juices from a cut Kiwi rubbed on meat helps to tenderise it, and it's a very attractive fruit when peeled and sliced to brighten up a fruit salad or even garnish something.
If not Kiwi, then we could buy a pack of pears for the same price - possibly 6 in a pack.

A quick tot up of the above brings the total to just under £11, but considering many of the above will keep/last for up to and over a month, and working on a £5 a week budget for fruit and veg, this leaves approx £9 left to buy others in smaller quantities, maybe tomatoes, cucumber, maybe mushrooms, Butternut squash... maybe all fourAND more. So it's always worth working out just how much we can buy that will last for more than a week, then fitting in other purchases into the wider budget.
Think I could have explained this more clearly, but hope you get my drift.

In yesterday's paper there was a feature about a new crop of websites that now sell food to the public at (generally) a much cheaper price than the supermarkets. But to gain these advantages we have to buy in bulk. A few examples were given by a mother of three (does she have a partner as well? No mention of this) who normally spends £130 a week in the supermarket.
Examples were given as to purchases from and by ordering just 10 of her regular buys from them she said these would save a massive £523.99p per year (and this after a few losses were made when the supermarket wines were cheaper). But as she hasn't taken into account any offers the supermarkets give over the next twelve months, the savings could be less, although buying now she will certainly be saving if prices rise during that time.

Different items were bought from different on-line stores, so it's difficult for me to compare like with like, but the above mentioned one seemed to come out tops. Full details of the above may be able to be found on the Daily Mail website (look for femail The Incredible Bulk, Thursday June 23rd - article by Amanda Cable).
All delivery charges are much the same as the supermarkets charge (around £5 a delivery), and if interested check out also: , and even - as this is now offering bulk sales of groceries.
Approved Foods was not given a mention, so possibly there are other similar sites we could discover. Anyone know of any?

As ever, the best advice I can give with the above is not buy to hoard, but get a group together willing to share the benefits of bulk buying. This way everying gets a bite of the cherry, remembering that most of us don't have the room to store much anyway.

Now to your comments. Yes Aileen, I promise to keep up the 'ramblings', just as long as you are aware than later (if not sooner) most will be deleted, although now knowing the problem, can probably work to keep some in.
One problem is that the title given to older (edited) postings now seem to bear little (or no) relation to the content that has been left in. Sorry about that. Maybe possible to change them, but that is something to do in the future.

Pleased you are finding my 'Rule of Four' works for you Woozy, this may not be the simplest way to reduce costs, but it certainly gets us thinking more about the different prices on (say) meats/fish so we can choose which is the 'best buy', than just deciding this is the day we always eat lamb chops
Yesterday discovered that recipes for "no-knead" bread can be found on 26th Feb 2011, and also on 3th Dec. 2010, so hope these will be useful for you.

Will probably delete the Frozen section of the recipe index, and also cakes, maybe even the biscuits, but will try to squeeze in the beef, lamb, chicken, fish etc, and definitely keep in the preserves.
Yesterday, just to make thing a little different, decided to work down from April of this year, instead of working up from 2008 where I think I left off. So far have pruned down to the start of Oct. 2010, and today will continue. Eventually will meet up with the earlier ones that have been 'cleared, so by the end of this week, and with all my fingers and toes crossed, the blog should then be left with mainly recipes, hints and tips. Only the most recent (say the last four weeks) will have the 'full Monty' of ramblings.

Noticed when I went to the Tesco site that there were sellling "vegetarian approved pet foods". For goodness sake, who are we to decide to give foods to animals they are not designed to eat. Nature having made the correct decision as to what different creatures should eat, and who are we to say we know better? The 'inner workings' of a carnivore are geared to digesting meat, the same way it has designed the body of a herbivore to eat leaves/berries etc. It's not just we eat it as food, it's also nature's way of 'clearing up the debris', culling species so one doesn't overtake another, in other words keeping the balance of the whole planet.
Man is (perhaps) more fortunate as he (as an omnivore) can eat a very wide variety of both, and we have the freedom to choose from plenty. Leaving religion out of it, our Bible says a lot of sense when it comes to food, and although before the Flood everyone was a vegetarian, after the Flood, we were then 'allowed' to eat meat (probably to keep the numbers down). Even then some (sensible) restrictions - no pork (in those days usually contained tapeworms, and if not cooked correctly....), and with no good sewage system, shellfish too (they like to feast on 'mucky bits') were also dangerous food.

There is always (and perhaps rightly) one part of the population that cannot bear to have animals killed just so we can eat them, especially when there is something else to eat. This is completely understandable, but if we all did this, if not need to be reared for food, most of these animals would never have been born. So by not eating meat, do we also deny them the right to live, even if only for a few years? Cows need to provide a calf a year to keep producing milk, and if we stop eating meat, then we would end up fields full of cattle no-one will kill, which then cost a fortune to feed, and because of lack of arable land, this then ups the price of all veggies. The only 'profitable' use for these animals would be to kill them anyway and use them as pet food.
Well, that's the way I tend to look at it. Probably wrong, but to deny anything the right to live just because it doesn't suit our 'morals' then perhaps we are not as 'holier than thou' as we like to think. It's no good saying that if something hasn't lived, then it hasn't missed anything. This may be true, but in this case why is there such an outcry against abortion (not that I agree with that, just making a point)?
No doubt you will start slagging me my thoughts on the above, but perhaps time I gave you something to nag me about. Do realise I'm not always right.

Returning to my 'pruning of postings', as mentioned above, decided yesterday instead of working up from the earliest, chose (after trying to sort out the index), to work down from earlier this year. Reason was that when I get fed up doing something, it's always best to find a different approach or - being me - might give up altogether.
This works particularly well when it comes to cooking, budgeting etc. Always I keep having to 'ring the changes', usually in the form of 'challenges', and will often don different hats and 'play' grocer (stocking up my shelves), 'customer' (buying from myself), chef (cooking up extra special meals for Beloved), and now and again - 'old style housewife' (cooking traditional fare and making lots of preserves and pickles). Add to that 'gardener', so you see that there is a lot to keep me interested even within my domestic environment. Just occasionally might even put on my Hilda Ogden pinny and play 'cleaning lady (but not as often as I should - last year's spring cleaning is still waiting to be done). Possibly the most fun came when I used to play 'au pair' (Beloved especially liked those days), but now am a bit too old to get away with it.

So, if any reader finds that cost-cutting is becoming a bit too much like hard work with no pleasure involved, all they have to do is take another approach. Might be something a simple as making a meal for four that costs no more than 50p per head, or just working out how much per ounce/gram basic ingredients are (knowing the cost of small amounts helps to work out the cost of a recipe). Pretending to teach someone how to cook the dish you are making (all you have to do is don an apron, then talk out loud as though there was someone watching your 'demonstration') really helps to improve the way we approach the dish. Showing how to prepare the 'makings' in advance, how to slice correctly, etc, etc. Sounds daft, but it does work. Found that when I used to make my own clothes, often ended up holding them together with a safety pin instead of sewing in a zip, but when I 'taught' my invisible student, the garment always ended up correctly and fully put together.
All right, so I'm a bit eccentric. Live with it.

'Upstairs' have been having a bit of a clear out, and dumped a lot of stuff they didn't want into 'their' shed (which is right next to our back door). Beloved offered to take what they didn't want to the tip for them (they don't have a car), and they said if there was anything we wanted we could have it. A lovely little well-made wooden three-drawer chest has now found a place in our kitchen. Found it fitted just under the kitchen table, so when pushed right to one side, it is now placed next to where I sit, and already filled with all the freezer bags, foil, baking parchment, clingfilm. labels etc. that I need when 'dealing with food'. As I nearly always work from the table, not the unit tops (to save me getting a backache), this makes it far more convenient for me. Now have three larger drawers next to Boris (these used to hold the above) that need to be filled with other things. Great fun, just love having empty spaces to fill. Am sure eventually that everything will have its rightful place and the kitchen should then be fairly 'uncluttered'.
Clutter elsewhere around the house I can shut my eyes to, but clutter in the kitchen depresses me. Need to know where everything is, as having to search is a waste of time, and by the time I've found it have usually gone off the idea of what was going to be made in the first place.

Having been stuck at the comp with not a thought of food (that's a laugh considering I'm always writing about it), this means my meals have been almost non-existant this week, just living off mainly coffee, and an evening meal of salads/fruit (yes, did have that dreadful Kiev but would rather forget about it). This means I've lost over 5 lbs weight this week and hopefully will lose a little more by Sunday. It has to be Sunday because that is the day Gill phones me and I do so want to tell her I have reached AND gone beyond a certain (and not telling) stone weight. You could call it a 'mile stone'. As Gill keeps gaining weight, soon I'll end up lighter than she is, and can start wearing the lovely clothes that she chucks out anyway because they are too small for her. He, he, he...will just love that! She won't.

B made another loaf yesterday, he still hasn't got it right, so another (silent) he, he, he from me. It's so nice to know I can (still) make better ones.

Nearly 10.00. Sun is shining and later will go out into the garden to water the plants that need it. Before that will continue the indoor 'pruning' on the comp. To give me time to do this will now have to take my leave, and hope you'll all be returning again tomorrow. If so - see you then.
(spell check failed so apologies for any mistakes).

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Not as Easy as it Seems

Having spent all of yesterday afternoon trying to get back all the recipe index (March 2009) even deleting ALL the other postings for that month (don't worry, nothing of interest in them), yet still only managed to bring half of them back. Tried to shorten pages by - whenever possible - putting two recipes on one line (the second in a different colour to make it easier to see), but after hours of doing this, still seemed to be stuck half way. Even deleted one or two that weren't THAT important in the great scheme of cost-cutting-things (such as Chocolate recipes), but still no further on.
Seem to have overdone the 'ease of finding' for the list of 'Pasta recipes' and 'Rice recipes' will also be in the 'Vegetarian' or 'Beef' or 'Chicken' et al, according to what is in each dish. And suppose to some extent most recipes have been duplicated. So which 'sections' are best kept?

Do we really need the 'Cakes, Desserts, Gateaux'? index, or even 'soups'. Biscuits recipes I think could be useful, but then are dishes that will freeze (under 'Frozen') so do we really need these (the recipe on the date of posting will be marked with a blue F to show it can be frozen and also the freezing details will be given in blue)? Myself would like to bring back the 'Fish Dishes', the 'Beef', 'Chicken, Turkey', the 'Pork, Ham, Bacon', and the 'Lamb', but other things will have to go for them to return. Discovering this yesterday did not make me a happy bunny.

The only alternative now that a lot of the postings have been deleted, is to go back and start giving a list at the end of each month of recipes that have been published during that month. Used to do this but deleted them to be able to bring back more. If so, this time it would be better if the recipes were listed by the main ingredients, rather than just giving dates, so it is easier to find what we are looking for.

Anyway, on to your comments, and am thanking all of those who wrote in (and what a lot there were). Forgive me for not replying to each of you personally, today confining this to those who have sent in a query. Most of you seem to enjoy this blog as it is - with all the 'ramblings'. These will continue, but all I can say is that it seems only the most recent blogger allow to stay posted, the rest go missing, so if you wish to keep up with the Goode life, then it may have to be a matter of 'don't leave it longer than three days before you catch up'.

It's been very interesting how several of you are not really that interested in the recipes that have been posted. Yet others are. So what is best to do? Continue with recipes or - being that already such a lot of recipes have been given (and now brought back) - for the moment concentrate on hints and tips that can be used by all.

Most recipes only suit a few people for we all have different tastes and keep different ingredients in our store-cupboards. So perhaps best to work 'one-to-one' - YOU ask me for a recipe, and I will give one to you (or even three). More use than any old recipe. And Les, although you are not interested in my recipes, do hope that by requesting a few re soft drinks, that I was able to supply what you wanted.

At least we all share the same need to find ways to save money, and even these can be different according to our lifestyles. What IS important is to find the way we each enjoy the most and work from there. Some may prefer to just 'shop thriftily', others may like to do a lot more home-cooking. Some may just wish to find out how to buy the same things but spend less.

It is good to hear that I have been able to give some inspiration in the past, just suggesting 'challenges' we can give ourselves is a good way to start. Why not try something like "how much can I make for 50p?" If nothing else, this gets us working out the cost of ingredients per ounce/gram (then write this on the pack). Finding out that pearl barley is much cheaper than rice (but can be used in much the same way) can inspire us to using this grain more often.
Woozy is hoping to make £25 (to feed 2) last a week - and this really shouldn't be difficult, especially if there are a few things in her larder she can use to help her on our way.
For further inspiration go to (not sure if it is .com .org, or .uk but just writing in the name in the search box will find it. Always put in the dash between words, for there are other sites with the similar name that are not nearly as good. This site works with a budget of £25 to feed FOUR, so a good place to discover how to go about it, and find some really economical (but very good and tasty) recipes.

What all of us should realise is that we normally eat too much in the first place. We may sometimes feel hungry, but that is our brain working on 'habit' more than anything else. Those who have (for religious reasons or dieting) fasted for two days realise that hunger then disappears and eating is then of no interest whatsoever, so almost have to force themselves to start eating again. We can exist without food for some time, but what we can't do without is water to drink.

Just to make the matter clear, during World War II, food rationing was so severe that compared to today there was very little to eat. Imagine each person being allowed only one egg PER FORTNIGHT! Or about an inch cube of cheese a week.
Yet despite all the restrictions, it was possible to eat some sort of meal a day, and today these would probably be called 'pauper's fare', but it is a known fact that although many people did lose weight because of being given short rations, the only ones who lost weight were those who were overweight in the first place. Once they had reached their correct weight, the weight loss stopped. If nothing else, this shows how little food we really need to eat to keep ourselves alive and active. It's not how much we eat, it is the 'balance' of foods that we take in that is important.

After the war it has been noticeable how people have grown taller (and of course much wider!), so eating more food obviously can have an effect both for good and bad. But one might ask "are people now living longer, because they ate more simply (and more frugally) in their youth?" Think almost certainly this has to be the case (plus advancements in medication etc). On a recent programme about the Chelsea Pensioners, one very elderly man there (looking far younger than his age - he must now be well into his nineties), was a prison of war in a 'Belsen' type camp. He showed photos of himself, looking like a skeleton covered by skin. Yet obviously, after being rescued and given care, he survived and is still living.
So cutting down the amount we eat should do little harm in the long run, and probably we would all be healthier because of it.

Sarah, I don't think it makes that much difference as to what milk is used to make yogurt. Low-fat yogs are probably made with semi- or skimmed milks. Some readers like to 'beef ' up the semi-skimmed by blending in a tablespoon of dried milk, and some add evaporated milk. One thing I forgot to mention was that as the yogurt will be cold, when stirred into the warmed milk this will bring down the temperature, so the milk needs to start off slightly hotter to allow for this. Once blended it should end up at blood heat and then immediately be tucked up to get on with the job.
If, for some reason, the yog doesn't seem to have 'set', then just reheat it and try again. At worst, 'runny' yog can be used in baking, or for drinking - it now seems that 'runny yog' is now being sold for this very purpose. Normally even 'mistakes' can always be used, and should never be thrown away.

Sometimes I think we can get too obsessed about what meals we should be making. Myself like to make sure that my Beloved never has the same main ingredient two days running. It might be lamb one day, beef, another, then perhaps a veggie dish, then chicken.... Yet, in my youth it was normal for a joint to be cooked on a Sunday and for the rest of the week (Fri excluded - this was always fish), the cold meat was served in different guises. The only change being that a different meat was cooked each Sunday (either beef, veal, lamb or pork, and different veggies serves according to season. In those days chicken was eaten only on high days and holidays).
It would certainly be simpler if we went back to using this idea, but would it work out cheaper?

If I had £25 to spend to feed two, then would first buy the (animal protein) foods that would go as far as possible, definitely one chicken (pref as large as possible), or - if it worked out cheaper - a mixed tray of chicken drumsticks and thighs. Fifteen eggs (£1.50 supermarket's cheapest) would be a must, and probably 2 x 4 pints milk (usually reduced in price when bought this way). At least a week's veggies should be able to be bought for £5 (including some fruit), and certainly a bag of porridge oats wouldn't be expensive, so boring these may sound, at least that's breakfasts and main meals almost sorted. What else would be useful? Possibly a pack of bacon pieces, maybe some cheese (look for this on the 'reduced' counter), and bread. Certainly flour and Stork marg. if baking is to be done. Perhaps a packet of pearl barley (use as rice) and a packet of pasta. With eggs and flour we can even make our own pasta.

The real work then starts: making the most of what we have. Simmering chicken bones and skin, and certainly a chicken carcase (also with skin and bones) will make a good stock, and this with veggies then will make more than one soup. Stock can also help to add flavour to a risotto (make with pearl barley) or other grain. Save the fat that rises to the top of the stock (easily removed after chilling) and use this for frying (or even when making savoury pastry), and there should be plenty of chicken flesh that can be removed from a simmered carcase to make at least one more dish.
If other meats need to be bought, then suggest pork mince (slightly cheaper than beef mince) and takes less time to cook. Certainly lamb's liver (no waste) and chicken livers (very cheap from the supermarket).

Don't forget that 'own brands' can SOMETIMES be worth buying. Myself have discovered that several ARE almost as good at the top brands, the cheaper baked beans only fault being they have too much sauce (and in every instance all the beans tasted exactly the same, it was the sauce that was slightly different in flavour). But if fussy, nothing to stop us draining/rinsing off the sauce (keep this to add to a soup or spag bol...) and mix with a can of the much more expensive beans.

Having said that, we should be wary of some 'own-brand' offers. Recently made the mistake of buying 2 packs of a supermarket's own brand Chicken Kievs. Each pack containing four, and buying two packs the offer was "buy two for £3". So I fell for it. In the past other brands of Chicken Kievs have been really good value. Not so in this case.
Yesterday, as hadn't had anything to eat all day, whilst preparing B's supper (lamb shank, potatoes and peas, plus the usual tracklements), suddenly felt hungry, so decided to eat 2 of the Kievs (and they were small despite each having 375 calories), with a few of the potatoes and peas.
Have to say that after the first bite, realised how AWFUL the Kievs were, but manfully eat the lot, mainly because it goes against the grain to throw food away, although in this instance should have done for half an hour later ended up with dyspepsia again and had to take to my bed.

Reading the pack this morning see that the Kievs were made with 'chopped and shaped chicken with added water". True the 'ingredients' said 43% chicken, but what part of a chicken? We all know now that 'chopped and shaped' can mean all sorts of 'bits and bobs' can end up as 'pre-formed' meat before it ends up on our plate. Suffice to say the meat part of the Kiev was like eating soggy bread. There also seemed to be far more coating around the - let's not call it chicken - filling, than the filling itself. The coating was too far too dry, and because it was made with breadcrumbs probably these contained the preservatives and additives that 'bought' bread now seem to affect me adversely.
It now seems that when I eat 'processed foods' my digestion suffers. Eating anything home-made I have no problem with. Fortunately some canned foods: baked beans, tinned fish, corned beef....don't affect me, although now all spiced sauces (curry and chilli), some cuppa soups and ketchups do.
Walker's potato crisps I can eat without a problem. Tortilla chips from the supermarket I now have to avoid. Myself believe that after years of eating foods that contain additives and preservatives (to lengthen their shelf-life) and with no outward sign of them doing me harm, there is a limit to how much can be taken, and our bodies - being able to discern what is good for us and what is not (if we are prepared to listen) will tell us when 'enough is enough'. It is said that when we die, our bodies don't deteriorate as rapidly as in the past due to all the 'preservatives' eaten over the years. If this is the case, then this proves these 'additives' build up on our bodies. And we don't want that, do we?

But I digress. Back to living on the breadline. Perhaps one of the best things we can do when making a start at cutting costs to the extreme, is to 'stock-take'. Write down all the food we have in the larder/cupboards, fridge and freezer. It's surprising how much we can find hidden behind other packs. All these should be able to provide the means of making a meal, and all we have to do then is buy 'the fresh'. It's also useful to keep these lists up to date, crossing off what we use and adding more as we buy, then we've always got a record of what we have at the time.
This may seem more trouble than it's worth, but believe me - it IS worth doing. The more we can get a professional approach to our 'catering', the more money we will save and - at the same time -the better the meals we can produce.

It nearly always works out cheaper if we can make a meal from scratch, rather than paying some manufacturer to do half the job for us. But often this can take so much time we do have to sometimes use something 'convenient'. This may be a stock cube, or it may be a casserole mix. I am guilty of using both.
But there are convenience foods and convenience foods. Some start sensibly, and then end up just plain silly. Take custard powder. Used by our grannies, and still today as far cheaper than making custard from scratch. Yet it has gone from worse to worse. Firstly by offering packs of 'instant custard mix' (just add water) through ready-to-serve custard in cans or packs, to now cans of aerosol custard. The one good thing about canned custard is that it doesn't 'split' when frozen. Neither does 'Quick-Jel', so it's quite possible to make a trifle that will freeze (whipped double cream also freezes well) and not 'weep' once thawed. Not that we would really need to, but the info is given just in case).

The more self-sufficient we become the cheaper it is to feed the family, but not when it comes to making cheese. As it takes 1 gallon (8 pints) of milk to make just one pound of hard cheese, practically all our English cheeses are cheaper to buy than to make ourselves (and we'd have to wait a few months before they were ready to be eaten. Been there, done know what I'm talking about).
On the other hand we can easily make the soft 'curd/cream' cheeses by straining yogurt through muslin. Using home-made yogurt this works out much cheaper than something similar bought.

Some bought cakes, scones and biscuits can be almost a cheap as those we make ourselves, but nowhere near as good, usually having that 'raising agent' taste to them. Not to mention the dreaded additives to help them have a longer shelf-life.
In the past have proved that it is possible to make 36 drop scones (aka Scotch Pancakes) that cost no more than a packet of 6 bought from the supermarket. In other words making them ourselves we end up with six times as many, and a perfect example of the sense of finding out how much it would cost to make ourselves before we bother to buy. Muffins too are cheap (and very easy) to make, yet expensive to buy.

We do not have to sacrifice quality to keep costs down. It costs no more to make a jar of good marmalade (using MaMade or similar) than the cost of the cheapest on the market. Same with jam. Cheap jam is like a 'spread' of mushed up mixed fruits (often just rhubarb and apple - read the label), whereas for the same price we can make our own jams where we can see and taste the whole fruits (for cheaper fruits ask your greengrocer at the weekend if he has any that won't keep - town markets also the place to go to late Saturday afternoon, or visit a 'pick your own farm'. Have to say my jam is now alway 'mixed fruits', using all the bits and bobs that have been stored in the freezer, a few black and red currants, black berries, strawberries, raspberries, maybe apple (but not rhubarb in mixed jam). 1 lb fruit to 1 lb sugar. Tastes wonderful!
For this reason am wishing to retain 'Preserves and Pickles' in the index if at all possible as these also make good gifts to add to the Christmas Hamper. But of course if the index has to be deleted, still have the details in my personal records, so all is not lost.

Enough for today (and perhaps too much), so will now continue deleting other 'unnecessaries' from past posting still waiting to be edited. Will wait to hear from you what you think is the best way to tackle the index problem.
Have to say there are times when I wish I'd never started this blog, it's all getting far too complicated. But then couldn't do without having our daily chat over our virtual cuppa, so with gritted teeth, will continue feverishly tapping away, and while I'm at it will make a 'dough man' to represent so that I can stick pins in it for making my life difficult.
Your comments always cheer me up immensely, so keep them coming. Hope you can join me tomorrow, see you then.