Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It Doesn't Have to Cost a Lot

Shorter blog this morning as it is Norma the Hair day, and with my groceries timed to be delivered shortly after Norma has left, that's my morning taken care of.
Will first reply to comments, then - if any time left - will carry on as long as possible. Normal service will be resumed tomorrow.

Thanks to Susan G. for passing on her recipe. Regarding Brussels sprouts (particularly when large). My grandson refused to eat sprouts so one day I shredded them up as I do with cabbage and he then ate them thinking it WAS cabbage. Afterwards he said he thought it might have been sprouts after all, but served that way he quite liked them.

A welcome and group hugs to Theresa. It's lovely to have readers in other countries and who will take time to send in comments, for every nation seems to have a different way of life and it's always good to hear domestic news from as many countries as possible. Am pretty sure in the US tht each state differs in some ways when it comes to food and the way they live. Even here in the UK - tiny though it is compared to others, each county/region differs either in dialect or traditional food - as well as architecture and landscape.

No name left from an Anonymous, but do understand that smoking is not just for fun, but grows into an addiction. Having been prescribed amphetamines by my doctor in the 50s to help me lose weight (in those days these could even be bought over the counter) know well how - after several years when they were later banned - I had become so 'addicted' to them (even though never taking more than the prescribed dose) it took me years before I managed to drag myself back to almost normal.

Pleased you enjoy reading comments from readers Urbanfarmgirl, and like you say (think I mentioned this above) it is very enjoyable to hear about life 'over the pond'. It has often been said that the USA is just as foreign to us as (say) Japan, China, the only thing we share is a common language (and in many ways we differ in that).

Regarding cellphones (we call them mobiles - the Germans call them 'handies') Lisa. Myself also find the cheapest way is to 'pay as you go'. Was given my as a present two years ago just after we moved here so that I could carry it around with me and if I fell down etc could instantly call for help (that was when B was away and I was less mobile than today but it could still happen). It had £20 of call-money already paid up when given me, and since then have only topped it up twice, making it about £50 - £60 total over the two years. Admittedly do send regular texts to our daughter who is ill, but as she only has a mobile and no land line it is cheaper for her to text than phone me.

Had forgotten about the Minack books minimiser deb, but have read several in the past and they are very good AND interesting. Although the meals might be considered boring if eaten on a regular basis, this is turning my mind back to my childhood when our meals when each day would have a 'set' meal, so we knew what to expect (roast on Sunday, cold meat Monday, Cottage Pie Tuesday, chops on Wednesday, stew on Thursday, fish on Friday, egg and chip Saturday - then repeated and repeated for YEARS). Good plain food, but still 'boring'. Herbs and spices were not used so much in those days, and any recipes for 'ethnic' foods had not seen the light of the British day.

Well, ceredwin, you have given me a challenge to sink my teeth into. Give me a few days to have a think and hopefully little grey cells will start working and I will come up with some ideas.

The 'Food Stamps' in the US sound a bit like our wartime rations Margie. In those times every one had a 'ration book' with little coupons (probably dated) that the grocer would cut out to send back to headquarters - say one coupon per week would entitle us to an inch cube of cheese each. The larger families were more fortunate as Mum would take all their books to the grocer and probably come back with the equivalent of six cubes of cheese - this could be grated and go a whole lot further than just one cube if you lived alone. But this type of rationing was more to do with the amount of food that we were each allowed, and nothing to do with the price. Food Stamps sound more like a set amount of money then people can buy the food they wish with them.
It would be interesting to know how they spend their 'stamp money'. Do the stores provide 'basics' only to be exchanged for stamps, or can a customer buy junk food with them if they wish?

Goody, goody. Replies now completed so have another hour left before I depart. Not sure why but the right side of my face started swelling up during the night. Might have been something I ate (did add a cuppa soup to a pan of home-made soup, could have been the additives in that) or it might be stress.

Our daughter called in yesterday with her friend and what a tale she had to tell. Very recently she had two more hospital visits for tests (her doctor requesting the results as rapidly as possible),and went to visit the consultant in Preston yesterday morning - by which time he would have had the results (they had been typed up our daughter was told several days ago when she phoned to check). He refused to acknowledge the tests as it wasn't he who had requested them (they hadn't been sent to him anyway and now seem to have been lost!!). Unfortunately there had been a mix-up and our daughter was earlier phoned by the hospital prior to this and told there was a cancellation so she could see a specialist earlier - which is what she did. It was this specialist who arranged the tests - and for some reason because the appointment had originally been booked with the other one, they can't 'share' the results. Our daughter has to have the tests taken all over again - even though the results will be exactly the same. This means more waiting, and even more waiting after that to see the consultant. She is rapidly getting worse, so think it's time to stamp feet, 'heads will roll' etc. over this. We expect the medical profession to help not hinder. Too much bureaucracy, although can myself see it from the consultants angle. For some other specialist to see an (accepted) patient (as yet not seen), it's a bit like the patient changing horses in mid-stream I suppose, even though the patient was only doing what had been arranged for her in the first place. Fault lies with the system.

A very interesting letter in our newspaper today re the value of eating porridge for breakfast. Seemingly "The Royal Society of Chemistry says a 'toast sandwich' is the cheapest meal available". Now, if I remember, this 'toast sandwich' is what it says on the tin. Two slices of bread with a slice of toast between.
The correspondent says "The cheapest pack of oats I can find is 75p kg, and the serving suggestion of 50g made up with water would yield 180 calories at 3.7p"
Double this portion and it would provide more calories for the same price of a toast sandwich.

Still comparing like for like, the letter goes on to say "Porridge would provide 11g of protein against 9.5g in the toast sandwich, 60.4 carbohydrate against 50.2, and 8.6 of fibre against 4.5g. The only macronutrients on which the porridge loses against the toast sandwich is fat....but this might be a positive point."

Other points made were that porridge oats have a much longer shelf life than bread and therefore prove more economical, and certainly more practical for those on a budget. Also (as can happen too with the 'toast sandwich', porridge can be 'improved', "by adding milk, salt or sugar, and - if you wish for more - honey, dried fruits, fresh fruits, nuts, even cinnamon. And reducing the amount of oats and adding a small amount of any ingredient would barely raise the cost and would add significant nutritive value and interest to the meal".

How many times have I said that porridge is the cheapest and best breakfast we can have, but not had the word-power to say it as clearly as above. Shows what an amateur writer I am. But now you have the facts, and let's hope that more of us start the day with a bowl of porridge especially during the colder months of the year, for - as the title of this posting says - a good meal "doesn't have to cost a lot".
Incidentally, If we soak the oats in milk (or water) overnight, they then take less time to cook - thus saving fuel.

Made myself a big pan of vegetable soup yesterday, the usual diced carrots, onions and celery, with added diced parsnip, and a diced potato.. Wanted to thaw out some chicken stock to add flavour but once thawed it turned out to be cauliflower puree (made from the leaves, core and stems of a bought cauli - cooked in milk then blitzed and frozen to dilute later to make soup) so added that too, with a little extra water. Surprisingly it worked well - the cauli puree worked as a 'thickener' for the soup and the flavour blended well with the other veggies. As our daughter, friend and B went out for lunch to a carvery, I had some of the soup for my lunch, and as B had a giant meal for lunch he didn't want an evening meal, so I had the remainder of the soup for my supper. Remember now I added a chicken cuppa soup to give a more 'chicken' flavour to the soup and it might have been the additives/preservatives in this that has caused the allergic reaction and made my cheek swell up.

Regular readers will remember that at one time my face swelled up regularly (but not always the same side) with usually 16 days between each bout. Having now cut out many foods that have preservatives (bought bread, cuppa soups, certain brands of potato crisps etc) this seemed to help, but all of a sudden the allergy seemed to almost disappear. Could be several weeks between bouts, and then usually only a wee one that almost disappeared before it began. Today's is not so wee, but having taken 2 antihistamines instead of one, am hoping it keeps it from spreading across to the other side (then I look like a hamster with cheeks full of food). So hopefully - if careful what I eat - this may be the last until early next spring.

Tomorrow evening our daughter is having a wine-tasting at her house. Not my scene as I now rarely drink alcohol, but B will (of course!) be gong. I'm providing the 'nibbles' to eat at the end of the session, so today and tomorrow will be making these, then B can take them with him. He will be able to taste all the wines (and I bet not in moderation) because he is being collected and driven there and back.

So far have decided to make the following 'nibbles'. Smoked salmon on (home-made) brown bread (with lemon to squeeze over), might put cream cheese under the salmon.
Will be making "sun-dried tomato palmiers' and 'pesto whirls' (puff pastry spread with filling and then rolled up in various ways). Also a batch of Parmesan 'crisps', and possibly an oblong cheese quiche that can be cut into oblongs as 'finger food'. If not the quiche, then cheese on sticks with grapes or cherry tomatoes. Might even make a hummus served with tortilla chips.

Having hit the wrong button and all the words on the page becoming enormous and no way to bring it back to what it was, had to resort to going into edit and continue via the 'draft'. For some reason, once the posting is in 'draft' there are huge gaps between each paragraph, so had to scroll down from the top and move everything up, piece by piece. This has taken time, so now have no more left to continue my chat.
Time to publish, but hope enough written to give food for thought. Again, many thanks for your comments, always look forward to hearing from you.

Please join me again tomorrow when I hope to have more of interest to chat about. See you then.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Today is Yesterday's Tomorrow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 28, 2011

Forewarned is Forearmed!

Something read in the newspaper (and also supplement) yesterday has concerned me greatly, as I cannot believe that we - as a nation (or even as individuals) - have let things get that far.
Will start with the full-page article in the supplement that talked about money spent on Christmas gifts for children.

Apparently "when children hit the age - seemingly around nine - when only technology will do, £100 is rarely enough".
"An iPod Touch is a fantastic present, great value as it it used every day to listen to music, play games, go on the internet and have FaceTime talking to friends who have an iPod Touch or iPad." This is not good. Far better that games are played the old-fashioned way (Monopoly around the table? Hide and Seek in the garden? Ludo, draughts, chess...) and talking to friends face-to-face. Otherwise we could end up with a civilisation that never steps outside the door, learning all and speaking to all only via a little box in the hand.
"The number one present for children aged 10 + is expected to be a tablet computer. The market leader is the iPad, which costs from £399." A dishwasher (my dream) costs less than that, and how likely am I to be given one? B is my 'dishwasher' (bless him - the one thing he does well) and - as such - needs no electricity to make him work (although a firework up his backside now and again is often called for).

"Saga revealed that parent's today spend four times as much (even when inflation is taken into account) as those who were born in the 1930s."
"Anecdotal evidence suggests that £100 is now the average cost of a child's present, a poll on the website MoneySavingExpert showed that 35% of parents spend less than £100 on each child at Christmas, while 32% were happy to pay more than £200."

Seems also that many adult members of a family are prepared to do without presents themselves so they can buy their children such expensive presents.
The idea - quite common now - is to set a ceiling price of £5 for each adult gift (less if possible). Again so more money is available for childrens' gifts but myself feel that children should be included in this 'ceiling'. Time now to get the family round the table, explain to all that money now is tight and a little has to go a long way. Better to have a small present (of something they would like/enjoy) than no present at all.
Children quite like the idea of making gifts to give others, and if they wish for something more expensive they could (nay, SHOULD) be encouraged to save some of their pocket money to put towards it.

Many children these days do little around the house, so handing out domestic chores that they could do to 'earn' them a little extra money is a good idea. The money doesn't have to be paid directly to them, just written in a little 'cash-book' so they can see how it adds up and then can be put towards their next Christmas gift.

Having had four children and nine grandchildren have learned that it is not how much is spent on a gift, it is what the gift is. Often some of the least expensive have been the most enjoyed. Think my daughter was quite annoyed when I paid very little for a present for my grandson (this being a cheap stamp album, stamp hinges and a few packets of used stamps), but - having saved stamps myself - knew (or at least hoped) he would get pleasure from it. And he did. He just LOVED it. It led to him searching out all the countries (named on the stamps) in his school atlas (an easy way to learn geography?), and this 'hobby' lasted him several years. He even got his stamp collector's badge at Cubs.

We can make little 'rooms' from an empty shoe box set on its side. We can even furnish it from all things home-made. Little girls love to play with things like that. Today we concentrate too much on technology and think there is nothing better, but take a child round a toy-shop or into a charity shop and see how they are drawn to products that were enjoyed in times past. It could be a small kit that can be built into a working clock, or small scale cook items so they can start making their own cakes/meals etc.
Speaking of which - another way children could 'earn' money is to suggest that instead of Mum buying certain cakes and biscuits, buying some fruit and veg, a child could make and bake, and/or sow and grow, and sell their 'produce' to Mum. This both helps them to learn about the economics of keeping house, and also becoming self-sufficient as well as - maybe - starting them on the road to a catering or horticultural career. Whatever way you look at it - you could say it could be a win-win situation.

Now we come to the other newspaper feature. The front page headlines of the Sunday Express being 'STARVING BRITAIN'.
It shocked me to the core to read how some families (which includes some middle-class) are now forced to go to charities to get food on the table.
In the year 2009-10 one Trust fed 41,000 people, in 2010-11 it was 60,000, and now calculates between 2011-12 it will be feeding 100,000.

In a way I don't have the sympathy that perhaps I should have when I read about a mother-of-one suffering depression. She had given up her job to look after the baby and her partner - a trainee architect - was not earning enough. "We never have any luxuries, and I haven't been out for two years, an we still couldn't pay the bills" she said. Welcome to my world. For more years than I care to remember I/we lived like that. My one outing per year (if that - and think it only happened a few times over 10 years) was to accompany Beloved to jhis work's annual party or something, even then had to make my own dress (out of patchwork remnants because that's all I had!!!) and had to brave the smirks from the other wives who were wearing expensive clothes. In the end stopped going out altogether, other than up to the shops, my tatty clothes covered by an overcoat given to me by my mother. That's just life. It improved, mainly because I pulled myself out of my misery and set down to learn how to become as self-sufficient as possible and - more importantly - learn how to cook economically and WELL! At least found out then that 'staying in' (as long as doing something worthwhile) was just as good as 'going out', and often more agreeable.

With all the benefits and help (?) from social services, cannot understand how so many elderly people end up starving. For one thing the older the person the more likely they are to have lived through hard times in the past. Wartime rationing and all that (although possibly only older women know how to cope, men in those days didn't cook). There was a mention in the papr of some families having to eat 'road-kill' (it was only the other day B noticed a pheasant in the road killed by a previous car, and we very nearly stopped to take it home and eat it ourselves, but didn't. On our return the bird was still there but obviously driven over by several cars and now completely flattened. We left it there.).
Yes, some people do eat 'road-kill', there is a man who delibertely does this because its 'free'. Unfortunately the press can mislead us by clever wording and what we read is not always accurate. Remember those headlines: "Freddy Starr ate my Hamster". Of course he didn't, but very many people believe he did.

Perhaps some have been lucky enough not to need to cook when younger, preferring to eat out or have 'take-aways' and re-heating ready-meals. This can lead to the attitude of 'Can't Cook, Won't Cook'. And to be fair, why should older people change their ways? Working harder than they ever did before doesn't sit well on some ancient shoulders.

The problem today is - and this is the same with the old and the young - is that poverty is seen to be shameful. Other than the fact money is so short these days there is little left for food, we now still make the fatal error of believing that what we eat is a symbol of our wealth (or not as the case may be).
Think porridge. Myself like a bowlful for breakfast, made with milk and possibly (if a bit thick) a spoon of cream on top with a spoon of honey to stir in. In Scotland, traditionally porridge is made with water and a pinch of salt. You can't get a breakfast any cheaper than the Scottish version. Yet - nutritionally - it is probably one of the best.
Whether my version or the Scots (and my bet it is the latter) you will no doubt find this breakfast is offered (and eaten) in the best hotels, served in stately homes and almost certainly Balmoral. If it's good enough for the royals, it's good enough for me.

Then, let's say, a newspaper comes up with a feature about an almost starving family who have to exist on a bowl of porridge for breakfast, can't even afford cornflakes, and all of a sudden porridge becomes the food of the Oliver Twisters and anyone else who lives in the poorhouse. Pauper's food no more, no less. But nothing has changed but the idea. We can so easily be swayed by what's in the press (or the fashion of the day).

In Victorian days (and possibly even earlier) oysters were the food of the poor. So many were gathered that great barrels of this shellfish were in London and even the tramps were able to help themselves. Now look at how expensive these are today, eaten mainlyby the wealthy.

In my youth a roast chicken was a rarity, normally only served once or twice a year on (say) an anniversary. A big joint of meat (beef, pork, lamb) was almost always served on every Sunday as the norm. A small family would have roast chicken for Christmas in the same way we would now eat turkey. Today chicken is one of the cheapest meats and eaten by most families once or twice a month (maybe more often), and a roast joint of meat is now hardly ever able to be afforded, or at least cooked only on special occasions.

Any food that is in short supply is expensive to buy. Doesn't mean it has to taste THAT good (here I'm thinking about truffles. Men apparently droll over eating this fungi, myself - although only having tasted truffle oil - am quite happy never to taste it again. It is a known fact that it is men who prefer eating truffles, and I could tell you why but delicacy prevents me).
If we all decided to stop buying (say) lamb, this would bring the price down faster than you could say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Excess of anything means the price would drop or the suppliers lose all their money. Am toying with the idea of suggesting we all stop buying one particular product (not yet made my mind up which) to see if I can get enough readers to make it work.

Whether a person is wealthy or not, when it comes to running a car ALL will make sure they buy the cheapest fuel to run their car. This makes sense. Many car owners today will drive miles to find a petrol station that sells fuel a penny or so cheaper than a one closer to home.

A car is a machine, our bodies are a 'machine'. We both need fuel to keep us running, only our 'fuel' comes from food and we are lucky in that - unlike most other animals - we can choose from a very wide variety to get the nutrition we need.

For anyone wishing to save money, it is the 'nutritional' side of food that is important. Forget the sweet treats, the luxuries. They do little for us except give us short-term pleasure. Concentrate on the foods that will do us good and keep us healthy.

Yesterday - as B was out - decided to open a can of tuna to eat with a jacket potato. In actual fact opened two cans (one to eat later) as I wished to find out the difference between the two. One was Tesco's Value range (tuna in brine = working out at 51p per 100g). The second tin was a branded name, same weight can but this time packed in sunflower oil (£1.26 per 100g). Almost three times the price.
True, there was a slight difference in flavour, the Value tuna (tried first) tasted fine, the second (branded) did have a slightly more 'fishy' flavour, but certainly not worth paying the extra for.
If flavour is an issue, then my suggestion would be to mix a can of each together.

What was interesting was the nutritional details on the label. The Value can was 100 cals per 100g. The branded was 197 cals per 100g. "That's interesting" I thought, "Almost twice as much food value". Then realised that calories shouldn't be taken as nutritional value. If it worked that way eating a bar of chocolate would provide our needs. Who needs tuna?
In any case, reading the rest of the nutritional advice, the protein content etc, their were just about identical EXCEPT the tuna canned in oil was very high in fats (none in the Value) and it ws this oil/fat that had upped the calorie count.

Thinking 'nutritionally' we gain as much from the cheap can of tuna as we would from the much more expensive, and perhaps time we should now be thinking more on those lines. Read labels of similar products before we choose which to buy. Often it is only the flavour of a product that differs, and although this can mean a lot - myself prefer certain brands of (say) baked beans, this does not mean we should dismiss the cheaper. Mixing cheap with the more expensive often works well (try it with cornflakes, coffee, baked beans, tuna....).

Continuing to eat only the foods we most enjoy has now to be considered more as a luxury - which it always has been when you think about it. In my youth we were given a plate of food and had to eat it up however much we hated any of it. Being given something we enjoyed eating was always a treat. Now 'treats' seem to have become the norm and not doing ourselves any financial favours because of it.

This does not mean that meals now have to become frugal and tasteless. We are blessed with having so many different herbs, spices, seasonings, sauces and other flavourings we can use tht even the cheapest, blandest ingredients can end up as a meal to be enjoyed.
Ideally, buy the least expensive when we lose nothing nutritionally, then use our little grey cells to find ways and means of pleasing our palates. This way we end up both healthy and happy.

Quiet often I wonder if I'm living in cloud cuckoo land. People 'out there' starving while my larder is (almost full). Who am I to give advice on how to live frugally?
Yesterday was wondering whether I should keep only a few ingredients in my kitchen cupboards so that I too have to manage on very little. Or does it make more sense to stock up before Christmas and then be my own 'grocer' and buy nothing more from the stores, but 'go shopping' and actually buy food from myself to discover how little I need to 'spend' to provide meals over the next few months.

Readers will have known I've done a similar challenge - probably still mentioned in the earliest postings of this blog. Spent £250 on all foods (meat, fish, fruit, veg, and all dairy etc) and made these last 10 weeks with both money and food left over. And we ate very well on that I have to say. Even serving posh nosh! As I keep saying "It's what you do with what you've got".

Am feeling - what with the cold weather coming - it makes more sense to stock my shelves, then live off those, but this doesn't really help readers who have little on their shelves but still need to eat healthily. It is easy enough to suggest a 'cheap meal' and give the recipe, but if we haven't the ingredients....?

When the cupboard is bare my first suggestion would be to go to the butcher and ask for some chicken carcases. Most butchers give them away for free. These simmered down in plenty of water - even on their own - will make a reasonably flavoured stock (which could be drunk as clear soup), and a fair amount of cooked chicken flesh might be able to be peeled from the bones.
By adding a carrot and onion (also a celery stalk if you have one) then we get a much better flavoured stock, and the cooked veggies can be chopped/mashed/blitzed with some of the stock to make a chunky or thicker soup and this -with the addition of some of the cooked chicken scraps could be a meal in its own right. If making enough could live off that for a week if I had to (a reminder to novice cooks that stock/soups etc made previously need to be kept chilled then thoroughly reheated before being eaten).

Yes - can see me being thoroughly contented (and fully satisfied) with a bowl of porridge for breakfast and a bowl of soup for lunch/supper. But then that's me. Others may feel deprived if they don't have a full English in the morning, and roast beef with all the trimmings for supper.

Here is a suggestion for a 'cheapo' meal, as am assuming that many readers will have the ingredients in their stores. Spaghetti works well in this dish (Tesco due a Value one), but any pasta shapes (or assortment) can be used. If you haven't basil use another herb or stir in a spoon of pesto (make your own pesto from basil, parsley, or any of the milder herbs) - or add dried herb, or do without altogether (but then the herb flavour that 'lifts' the dish will not be there).
The stock cube used is vegetable, but beef stock would work just as well (depending upon wht other foods are added. If tuna is chosen then use veg. or chicken stock). Make the basic (as shown) but by extending with mushrooms, and/or bacon this will serve more or just turn it into a more substantial dish. Quite a few things can be added to a basic pasta dish - maybe some sliced olives and a can of flaked tuna. Experiment, but always keep an eye on the final cost.

With a dish such as this always serve it the Italian way: add the pasta to the sauce so that each strand/piece of pasta is coated. Piling the pasta on a plate then spooning over the sauce never works as well. The pasta is mainly tasteless and we get too much sauce with each mouthful.
Tomato Pasta: serves 4
14 oz (400g) pasta (see above)
1 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
1 clove garlic, crushed (opt)
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
half vegetable stock cube
1 tblsp tomato puree/paste
few basil leaves, shredded (opt) see above
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan and stir in the garlic. Cook for 1 minute then add the rest of the ingredients (other than the pasta) and bring to the simmer. Stir-fry over low heat for five minutes to reduce the sauce.
Drain the pasta (keep back a little of the cooking water), then stir the pasta into the tomato sauce and toss to cover. If the sauce is thicker than you wish, stir in a little of the reserved cooking water.

As you know I am fond of using cooked (canned or home-cooked) beans in many meals I make. Having recently cooked dried (and soaked) butter beans am looking forward to making the following dish. Canned cooked beans work out more expensive than the home-cooked, but not a lot more (at least not yet, who can say what the price will be next year). The recipe can be adapted by stirring in a tsp or two of tomato puree if you wish it to be tomato flavoured, or a dash of white wine if you wish it to taste more upmarket.
Chicken joints also work out cheaper when we joint a fresh whole chicken ourselves, but sometimes we can buy a pack of thighs, drumsticks, or mixed at a reduced price. If not already frozen, freeze fresh chicken portions and wrap each separately, then we can thaw out only the amount we need.

Chicken and Beans: serves 4
2 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
8 boneless chicken thighs or drumsticks
2 onions, chopped
1 - 2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp dried thyme
1 pint (600ml) chicken or vegetable stock
2 x 400g cans cannellini or butter beans
salt and pepper
1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
Put the oil in a frying pan and fry the chicken until golden on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside. Add th onions to the fat in the pan and fry for five minutes until softened, stirring in the garlic towards the end. Place the chicken joints back into the pan, pour over the stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes, then cover the pan and cook for a further 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender and cooked through. Drain and rinse the beans, add them to the pan, cover and leave until the beans are heated through. Scatter the parsley over the top and serve immediately.

Final recipe today is for a slightly tastier version of the old-fashioned macaroni cheese. My mother used to make the basic version regularly when I was a child. In those days macaroni seemed to be the only pasta used and my mother never went further than using it for macaroni pudding or macaroni cheese - and that wasn't nearly as tasty as this version. If you haven't macaroni, then use pasta penne or something similar.
Not sure whether I dare say this, but you could make the white sauce the 'instant' way using Bisto granules. Just infuse the ingredients in the milk (or water) before blending to give it the extra flavour.
Parmesan cheese can be expensive, although a little goes a long way. My suggestion is to store some (or ends of) a hard strong Cheddar (or other hard cheese) in the fridge - but unwrapped - until it is really hard, then this will grate down as fine as Parmesan and can either be mixed with Parmesan or used instead of.
Although not an ingredient listed, myself would include some broken bits of crispy bacon when folding the pasta into the cheese sauce, OR snippets of raw bacon rashers could be mixed with the breadcrumbs and Parmesan to sprinkle over the top to crisp up as it bakes. Just one rasher of smoked streaky bacon can add oodles of extra flavour if that is what you are after.

21st Century Macaroni Cheese: serves 4
1.5 pint (700ml) milk (pref full fat)
1 onion, halved
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf (opt)
12 oz (350g) macaroni
2 oz (50g) butter
2 oz (50g) plain flour
4 oz (100g) strong Cheddar cheese, grated
1 tsp English mustard (powder or made)
salt and pepper
2 oz (50g) Parmesan cheese, grated (see above)
2 oz (50g) roughly crumbed bread
Put the milk in a pan with the onion, garlic and bay leaf, then bring to the simmer (without actually boiling). Set aside for at least 15 minutes for the flavours to infuse. Then strain through a sieve.
Meanwhile, cook the macaroni as per packet instructions, then strain and rinse under the cold tap and set aside.
Make the sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan, then stir in the flour and cook over a low heat for one minute to make a 'paste'. Slowly add the sieved and infused milk and whisk in as it heats until the mixture is smooth, simmer for 3 minutes, stirring often. Fold in the grated Cheddar, the mustard (powder or made mustard) and a little salt, being more generous with the pepper.
Finally, fold the pasta into the cheese sauce, spoon this into a buttered, shallow ovenproof dish, and sprinkle the grated Parmesan and breadcrumbs over the top. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 20 or so minutes or until the dish is bubbling and golden on top. Serve immediately.

Unusually, today have left replies to comments until the end of today's posting, mainly because I needed to get my thoughts about indulging children and the starving thousands off my chest before I moved onto more pleasant chat.

Interesting your mention of chicken gizzards Lisa. Although at one time we used to get these mixed in with the rest of the chicken giblets when we used to buy a fresh bird for roasting (the giblets used to make the gravy), now giblets are no longer provided with the bird, and have never known of gizzards being sold to eat as a meal in their own right.
Chicken livers are extremely tender and don't really have that much flavour, unlike liver from larger animals. Ox liver is very strongly flavoured, pigs liver less so, lamb's liver is the one most favoured these days, as calves' liver (even milder) is too expensive. If used to eating the strongr livers (not enjoyed by many) it could be worth giving chicken livers a go as they are very nutritional and (at least in the supermarkets here) extremely inexpensive. Dearer when bought from the butcher.
Was slightly puzzled by your 'challege' of not spending more than $5 per 'bag'. Not sure whether your 'bags' are similar to those seen in films - large paper bags (small sacks) in which food seems to always be packed. Here we either take our own bags to the supermarket or they are packed in plastic carrier bags. The cost of the contents of a bag entirely depends on what has been packed in there. A carrier bag full of veggies might work out no more than £2 (or less), a bag containing (say) meat and fish could work out at £10 or more.

Good to know you were in our vicinity gillibob when you were here recently. You say you drove through Bare, so presume you turned off the coastroad up past the Bare shops and onwards up to and then over the level crossing at Bare station. You will then have passed by the road which itself is at the end of the road where we live.
Pleased you enjoyed the Fork Biscuits. Myself find it impossible to stop eating them once started. Definitely worth adding to those Christmas Hampers full of the home-mades we give as gifts.

Myself find that unless carefully stored Campfire, food is often forgotten about when pushed to the back of the shelf in the fridge. Have devised a way of making it easier to keep track of what I have by using oblong shallow boxes as 'trays' to hold various things such as small jars (curry paste, redcurrant jelly, mint sauce, tartare sauce etc), assorted hard cheeses, fats (lard, clarified dripping...) these then being pushed right up to the back and nothing can get hidden behind. These are easy enough to pull forward and select what I need.
Tubs of soft marg, and packs of butter are kept behind tubs of soft cheese and pots of double cream, so again easy to see and less chance of something going off before used.
When it comes to the shelves and drawers holding my veggies, I need to make sure nothing gets hidden, but by keeping the larger veggies at the back (cauli, white cabbage, iceberg lettuce...) they are easily seen, and the smaller (cucumber, new potatoes, spring onions, vacuum beetroot....) are kept at the front. Parsnips, butternut, celery, bell peppers are in a drawer together with a few others that are regularly used so never get the chance to be forgotten.

Bacon, cooked meats, sausages etc are wrapped and kept in a special drawer, so as most of these are used regularly, am always reminded they are there. Eggs I normally keep at room temperature.

The Craft Sale went well yesterday according to B. Most of the products I sent were sold, just a few pieces of fruit cake left (I sent lots of that). Unfortunately the Hog Roast was a no-go. The 'Hog' man arrived complete with equipment, but the parking place in front of the club house (where 'roast' was to take place) was taken by a car left by someone who was at the social the night before. They phoned the man several times during the morning but got no reply. When the man arrived in the afternoon to collect his car the Hog man had already gone because it was then too late to get the pig roasted in time. When asked why the car owner didn't answer his phone he said he couldn't "because the phone was in the car"!!! How I laughed. B didn't think it so amusing, he was looking forward to munching a roast pork bab. He had to make do with making his own supper - which I think he chose to be cheese on toast. Because it was easy.

So Hugh F.W. has finished his vegetarian stint. Thought it was to last a whole year, but seemingly it covered just four months. The programme has been interesting, and although not at all inclined to be vegan, really did like the idea of de-hydrating fruit and veg so thus ended up with some of it really 'crisp'. The idea was that all the food in the vegan restaurant was served raw - and this covered those dehydrated. Myself feel that anything that has been 'prepared' at a higher temperature than room temperature should be deemed 'cooked'. Meringues are 'cooked' even though (in my case) just 'dried off' at a very low temperatue (cooling oven/airing cupboard etc). Are 'sun-dried' tomatoes counted as 'cooked'. And does it really matter?
Thing is we have been shown we can eat very good meals without including any animal protein (other than that in milk, cheese and other dairy products, and eggs). If we can grow as much fruit and veg as possible ourselves, then we could feed ourselves very cheaply. It helps to have a garden or at least a few windowsills in full sun.

Seems to have been a long blog today. Hope it has not been boring. Sometimes we need to think of the plight of others, an this may lead to us changing the way we live ourselves. Today's world is very much 'consumer orientated' and the only way to drag ourselves out of this is to begin to become much more self-reliant. It isn't that difficult as long as we decide it isn't being 'forced' upon us - it's actually the way we should be. So why not enjoy it? I've never been happier since I began. And so it continues.

Weather still windy, and cold with it. But in a couple of days it will be December and the count-down to Christmas then has to start with a vengeance. Hope you find time to still send a comment or two. Look forward to reading them. We'll be meeting up again tomorrow in the usual way(read this blog whilt drinking a cup of coffee)? Don't let me down. I'd miss you if you didn't turn up.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Looking To The Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Counting the Pennies

A later start this morning due to me having another one of my dreams. Did get up at 5.00 but went back to bed to continue what then was a nice dream, but it turned out a nightmare. Suffice to say it was about a friend's wedding, in London, in a big hotel, and the registrar (wedding celebrant) didn't turn up. After we had been waiting all of four hours, the search was then on to find the person who had booked the registrar and woke up before this was sorted. Think no-one had!!! Loads more complexities in the dream but would take far too long for me to tell you. Food of course played a major part, although I wasn't (for once) involved in that side, other than going into the kitchen and having a long talk with an Italian chef there (proving to him I was also a cook because I was wearing my butcher's striped apron at the time. At a wedding?!!).

We move on to reply to comments, and firstly must give a very warm welcome and group hugs to Bets who sent a very inspiring comment. It certainly inspired me to hunt out more ways to leave frugally. Must just give another mention to , a website that gives loads of great info on how to 'cook on the cheap'. Full details are given - the cost and nutrition of each portion of the recipe chosen etc - including photos of the dishes.

When it comes to having a really small food budget, we have to sometimes change our menus to suit. This can often work out that we end up eating a dish that others might serve up as 'posh nosh'. My mind is thinking 'chicken livers' here as they are less than 50p a tub (frozen) from the supermarket (enough to feed two), and can turn into chicken pate or served (cooked) mixed with salad leaves (or as an ingredient in a risotto).
Speaking of which - another real money-saving idea is to buy a pack of Mixed Salad Leaves (at this time of year look for those that grow well during the winter months, many do), and sow a few regularly in a box and place on a windowsill. After six weeks (a month in the summer months) they should be ready to harvest. One pack (from 99p - £1.50p) should provide enough seeds to grow on through a twelvemonth. Buying mixed leaves from a supermarket they cost at least that for one bag. So - think chicken livers and mixed salad leaves and you have a start for a plateful that cost pennies!

Here feel it is worth a reminder to home-cooks to ask for the more expensive 'ingredients' (that we would normally not be able to afford) to be given us as a Christmas (or birthday) present. Even a small bottle of brandy, port or rum can raise the ridiculous to the sublime, and myself - having now built up a (gifted) stock of the above plus limoncello, kirsch and Cointreau can 'lift' almost anything cooked to a higher level without having to even open my purse. It doesn't have to be boozy. Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a quality Balsamic Vinegar, Sherry Vinegar, and so on all make wonderful gifts for the cook. Who needs Chanel Number 5 when a few drops of Truffle Oil make my husband (or any other male who eats a meal containing this) fall delightedly into my arms?

Am pleased readers enjoyed the new series about the Amish. It is true, how rarely these days do we stand back and listen to what nature offers. As a young girl, we lived in a house that had a very long garden, the end of which was almost woodland, and I would sit up there and just listen to all the birdsong and smell the fragrance from the garden next door - the top part alongside ours being an orchard.
We are lucky in Morecambe living in a road that has little traffic, and only when the wind is in the right (or wrong) direction do we hear the sound of the trains as the railway line is at the top of our road. We have very few trains anyway - it's more a shuttle service from Morecambe to Lancaster. Unfortunately the birds we have in the garden are the larger ones - the seagulls making the most noise. Have seen a robin and a wren, we have a couple of blackbirds, loads of magpies and collared doves, plenty of pigeons (someone has a loft nearby), and fortunately do have blue-tits that appear from time to time (they reared youngsters in our nest box last year).
But where are the thrushes, the chaffinches, the bluetits, the goldfinches, wagtails and other birds that I remember coming into my parents garden - all seem to have disappeared now? It must have been over 30 years since I heard a cuckoo - and that was in Scotland.

Urbanfarmgirl's mention of 'to shop or not' gave me food for thought. It does seem as though we tend to shop by habit, and if we enjoy shopping (for anything) we then tend to go out and buy more than we need. Yet at other times - such as this time of the year - it is instinctive to stock up our shelves to make sure we have enough food to see us through the winter months. Having said that, in the old days most of the stores were made at home (bottling fruit, vegetables, drying certain foods, making jams, marmalade and pickles etc. Meat would be smoked, fish salted and dried, and plenty of dry goods (flour etc) stored in bins. Fresh vegetables would be sparse, but there are always the root vegetables that keep well and also kale that is a winter 'green'. Nowadays with freezers, we have the opportunity to store so much more that couldn't be stored then. Also we've got used to eating more than we need (and more often).
It's surprising how little we need to eat to keep ourselves healthy (think war-time rationing here), and just because we eat more and don't seem to suffer from it is because our body is very good at removing the excess in the way it knows best. In other words we are paying for food our body doesn't need and - eventually - discards it.
Tip here is to eat first (and maybe only) nutritionally good foods (they don't have to be expensive), and only then allow 'treats' if we can afford it (these needn't be expensive either). The Shirley way hope to prove we can have both.

As you say Elaine, scrimping and saving (my words) is both a challenge that can be fun. With an attitude like that we can all end up being winners.

Do hope you will enjoy using your electric slicer Alison. Myself find it can slice so thinly that it makes even the smallest gammon (or roast beef etc) go a lot further. Slices can be adjusted so slice according to your need. Definitely cooking our own meat (always boneless of course or the bones will damage the blade) then cooling and chilling (it slices more neatly when cold), will save £££s. Just compare the weight of your meat (after cooking), against the weight as given per kg (found on Tesco's website - probably other supermarkets sites too), and you will find that after cooking a couple of gammons or a gammon and roast beef (brisket or topside) the machine will have paid for itself when the price of YOUR sliced meat is compared to that sold in the supermarkets.

Storing large appliances can be a bit of a pain. I keep my electric slicer in its separate parts, usually wrapped in a plastic bag (be careful of the blade - it is very sharp. Wrap separately). It is very speedy to assemble and clean. Don't - of course - immerse the bit with the 'electrics' in water. I just wipe this down with a damp sponge that has been rinsed in anti-bacterial 'Fairy'.

As I have several large appliances, Beloved screwed two brackets onto the wall at the end of our kitchen - a narrow bit that juts out (it used to be an outside wall before being removed to gain access to the conservatory). These hold adjustable brackets. Each shelf is only big enough to hold one appliance, but VERY useful. On the topmost (almost too high to reach) is our deep fat fryer (which I rarely - if ever - use now). Then my big jam-pan, below that my slow-cooker, below that my electric slicer, and below that (at one time although now moved to somewhere more convenient) my bread-maker, and at the bottom is my Kenwood mixer (a smaller version). Under that - on the floor - is a large basket holding our outdoor shoes. Really need one of the shelves to store my food-processor, at the moment this is on our kitchen table as it is probably the one appliance (other than the bread-maker) that is used the most often.

Glad to say the biscuits turned out well. Might make some more today - they are very easy, so will give the recipe again although it is still on this site (as had to look it up for myself) think it was in October 07, but can't be sure of the year.

Sorry to hear you are not well Ciao and that your doctor will find out the cause. One of the reasons I gave up shopping in a supermarket (Safeways at the time) was because of the long wait at the checkouts. In those days I was not 'disabled' but believe me - by the time I'd gone round the aisles, my back was aching, and the wait made it 100 times worse.
This is why I changed to home-deliveries, and have to say because there was no real temptation to buy more than needed, and if I bought enough to keep us going for a month, then the delivery charge was no more than if I'd spent the money on petrol to drive to and from the store (having previously shopped there weekly). At the moment Tesco seem to be offering free delivery for the first order. So a good chance to stock up (they have loads of offers at the moment). No one forces us to continue shopping with them, although if we don't they then tempt us back by giving us (say) £10 off the next shop which more than pays delivery charges. Canny shoppers can play supermarkets at their own game as they are so desperate to keep our custom.

It is sad Campfire, but The Midland Hotel (here in Morecambe) is not what it used to be. The exterior is the same, but the interior is a dismal failure. Everyone says that. Why they didn't carry on the Art Deco theme I don't know. It is simple enough and extremely attractive in the right surroundings. As an Art Deco fan (one of the reasons I'm hooked on Poirot - watching the repeats I tend to look at the background decor of property rather than concentrating on the plot) feel that they missed the plot when refurbishing The Midland.

Hope you manage to go to Lindisfarne for you anniversary Campfire. We too tend to stay at home for anniversaries, yet am reminded of the time my Beloved say he would take the two of us to Amsterdam for our wedding anniversary (the Ruby one). I was so thrilled and excited, he normally didn't bother to celebrate, but this one was a bit special. I had my hair done, made sure my passport was OK, even packed my case. On the day made sure everything was ready then asked B what time we were leaving for the airport. He looked bemused and I had to remind him. Turned out he had forgotten what he had said and done nothing about it at all. How disappointed I was. But not surprised. That's B all over.

Good to hear your daughters hens are still laying regularly Eileen. The ex-bats that she has would be Warrens, these bred to lay more eggs than most other breeds - often 'keeping going' throughout most of the winter months. As she has three hens, and even when the colder weather comes, she will probably get at least one egg a day. It will be interesting if you can let us know from time to time. As the hens tend to lay less when there is less daylight, the good and sunny weather we have been having recently will also help, and with the shortest day being less than a month away, and if the weather stays fair(ish) up to then, your daughter may find her hens still keep laying their full quota.

Am beginning the recipes today with the repeat of the Fork Biscuits. Mind you, they are so yummy (when made with butter) it is difficult to stop eating them. As they spread a fair amount, keep the 'balls' small (about the size of a cherry tomato) and space well apart on the baking sheet. Making the 'ball' smaller we can gain a few extra biscuits.
These biscuits I feel are so good they are worth giving away as gifts. Certainly perfect if wishing to add a little extra something to the Christmas Gift Hamper that many readers give as a gift.
The way things are today, anything 'home-made' is worth more than its weight in gold.

This mixture makes about a dozen biscuits, but when made recently I doubled the amount of ingredients, then - before I kneaded into the final dough - divided the mixture into three, adding an egg-cup of cocoa to one, the zest of an orange to another, and a teaspoon of ground ginger to the third, then kneaded each separately to make differently flavoured biscuits. Worked a treat!)

Fork Biscuits: makes approx 10 - 12
4 oz (100g) butter or margarine
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
5 oz (150g) self-raising flour
Cream together the butter and sugar, then work in the flour (at this point add the chosen flavouring). Using clean hands (of course) gather the mixture together and knead until smooth. Break off even pieces (5 or 6) and roll into balls. Place well apart on a lightly greased and floured baking sheet (you may need two sheets). Flatten each ball slightly, then press down even further with the prongs of a knife that has been dipped into water.
Bake at 180F, 350C, gas 4 for about 15 minutes. Check to see if they are firming up - they will still be softish in the centre - allow a minute longer if you feel they need it (depending on size of biscuit). Remove from oven and leave on the baking sheet for five minutes, then - using a fish slice - carefully remove to a cake airer. They will crisp up as they cool, and become even crisper when left for longer. When completely cold store in an air-tight container.
Have self control when eating - or you'll eat the lot in one go!

Next recipe is for chicken liver 'parfait', this being a smoother version of chicken 'pate'. Yes, brandy is an ingredient, but could be left out - myself would prefer to use Cointreau and leave out the tomato puree. If we don't get the booze given as a gift, use orange zest and orange juice.
Chicken parfait comes under 'posh nosh' and - as it freezes well, should be made up in small pots so we can thaw to eat as a treat over several weeks. It will also keep well for 3 - 4 days in the fridge if the layer of butter topping is intact. Once this seal has been broken, eat up the parfait/pate within a couple of days.

Chicken Liver Parfait: serves 6
8 oz (225g) butter, diced and softened
2 shallots, finely diced
1 clove garlic, crushed (opt)
1 lb (500g) chicken livers
1 tblsp (or less) brandy
salt and pepper
1 tblsp tomato puree (see above)
extra butter for sealing
Trim the chicken livers, removing any sinews or green bits. Melt half the butter in a frying pan, then - over low to medium heat - fry the onions until softened, if using garlic stir this in towards the end of the cooking time. Raise the heat and add the trimmed chicken livers, frying just long enough to brown on all sides (they can still be a bit pink in the centre). Add the brandy then boil down to reduce (some chefs allow the brandy to catch alight - this helps to add flavour and burn off the alcohol, but not necessary - unless you want to show off). Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
When cold, add a pinch of salt and plenty of pepper then tip the pan contents into a food processor with the tomato puree and remaining butter and blitz until smooth. At this point it is a 'pate'. To make it really smooth (a 'parfait') rub through a sieve (if you have a mouli-mlll this makes the job easier) scraping all the remaining puree from the underside of the sieve to add to that fallen beneath, then pot up into one serving bowl (or several small ramekins) and level the surface. Chill for several hours until set.
To seal the pate/parfait, melt a little butter then - after the solids have fallen to the bottom - pour the clarified butter (from the top) over the parfait until covered completely. Replace in the fridge to set (it can then be bagged up and frozen if you wish - thaw before serving).
Serve with plenty of toast. Sliced gherkins, chutney, relishes also eat well with

One of the simplest desserts to make is the 'Poor Knight's of Windsor'. Originally made by soaking left-over jam sarnies in beaten egg, frying them THEN dipping in sugar, the following recipe is more elaborate, although can be adapted to leave out some ingredients if you wish. The sweetened cream cheese takes the place of butter in the sarnie, but if you prefer just butter the bread instead. As I so often say - use the recipe as a guide then do your own thing with it.
When the bread is stale, it will soak up more of the egg. Less egg can be used (say 2 large instead of 3 - 4 medium) especially if using fresh bread, but as egg is 'animal' protein, so when serving any pudding that contains egg (esp if one egg per portion) this means less or no meat can be served for the main course. Milk to is 'animal' protein, so a 'proper' custard made with eggs and milk is - nutritionally - as good as a small beef steak. Add cheese and we are on to a winner.
The more we begin to understand the value of different foods, the more we find we can spend less but still eat enough to keep ourselves healthy.

Poor Knight's of Windsor: serves 2
3 - 4 medium eggs
3 fl oz (75ml) milk
2 tsp vanilla extract (opt)
2 tblsp caster sugar
4 oz (100g) cream cheese (Philly type)
2 tblsp icing sugar
4 tblsp jam (blackberry is good)
4 slices fairly stale bread
1 oz (25g) butter
Put the eggs, milk, vanilla and sugar into a basin and whisk together. Beat the soft cheese with the icing sugar and then spread onto each slice of bread, covering with the jam. Clap two slices of bread together to give two 'rounds' of sarnies.
Place these into the egg mixture and leave for 30 seconds then turn so the top side also soaks up the egg (leaving again for 30 seconds).
Melt the butter in a large frying pan until hot (but not burning) then fry the sarnies for 3 - 4 minutes on either side until golden. Slice in half (diagonally looks more attractive) and serve hot with or without cream, ice-cream. Alternatively drizzle over more hot jam and sift over some icing sugar.

We should always remember that every drizzle, every sift all adds up and over a year might have cost us pounds. In wartime cooks used to open unfold the empty sugar packets so they could shake out the few crystals that had become trapped in the creases. The paper that wrapped butter always kept to use for greasing tins. Even today I do this. "A penny saved is a penny earned". Yes, I know I keep saying this, but its true.

Another thing worth remembering is that 'fats' are now no longer cheap to buy. Oil is expensive, margarine is expensive, the only one reasonable in price is lard - and how few people today use this for frying?
Whenever we make stock (beef or chicken) once it has cooled there is a layer of fat on the top. Most people throw this away, but it can be used to frying. After frying bacon, leave the fat in the pan and use this when frying something else that can take on the flavour of bacon (omelette, sausages etc). Even sausages give off fat - again can be used for frying.

In the old days cooks used to use the above fats when making pastry. Chicken fat makes good pastry when used to cover chicken pies. Ask your butcher for extra (free) fat when buying beef for roasting. Place on top of the meat to roast and you will end up with a pan of free 'beef dripping' - far too tasty to use any other way but spread on toast with a sprinkle of salt. My Beloved ADORES this, but unfortunately can only make it for him about twice a year when I buy a large joint to roast. This is then usually sliced fairly thickly and frozen in beef gravy to later thaw and serve as a 'roast beef dinner'- with all the trimmings), or sliced more thinly for sarnies and to add to my 'platter' of cold meats (slices of home-baked ham, chicken or turkey, beef, tongue etc).

Butter gives a gorgeous flavour so always worth buying at least some to use when making (say) a risotto or frying an omelette. When baking find the tubs of Stork make even better cakes than when using butter. Almost all the soft margarines are good in baking and can replace butter, although for really great flavour when baking biscuits, butter cannot be beaten.

By now, regular readers know that I can be downright mean when it comes to some purchases and making the most of what I have, but by doing this am able to save just enough money to allow me to buy what I deem as 'the necessary for good eating'. This being 'quality' meat (not the fillet steaks but good stewing cuts), butter and (occasionally) olive oil - although rely to a great extent on the latter being given as gifts. "What would you like me to bring back for you?" is usually asked by members of our family when they go abroad (Spain or France etc) and I always ask for a bottle of olive oil.
Beloved went on a sailing holiday to the Canaries and brought me back a huge Chorizo sausage (it needed cooking). Unfortunately the case in which it was packed got lost en route and it was some weeks before it was found and returned. By then dare not risk eating the Chorizo - although, being spiced - it might still have been fit to eat once cooked. So chucked it in the bin to be on the safe side (me being the only one that liked Chorizo, did not wish to take the risk!).

Heavens - is that the time? Better love you and leave you again. The trade mag has arrived so will now go and have an intensive read to find out what financial horrors may await us. On the other hand there may even be good news. Doubt it though.

Please remember both old and new readers, that if you have a query or wish to stretch your money even further, just come to me, ask the question and I'll try and come up with sensible and thrifty answer. Getting any query usually gets my head down to find what is required, and this often leads on to other thoughts of the frugal type that prove worth sharing.

Another very windy day, but with Beloved out tonight, and most of tomorrow "No need to get me any supper, I'll be eating there - and they're having a Hog Roast on Sunday" he tells me. So at least no need to make him a meal. Alright for some. I'll make do with eating baked beans out of a tin shall I?
Even yesterday was easy. B brought in a Chinese take-away, although my digestion suffered a bit afterwards (it was a bit too dry and spicy for me - think it was called 'Singapore' noodles, a sort of Chow Mein, everything mixed together with noodles and (seemingly) curry powder. Nice but not quite me. I like plenty of sauce with rice to soak it up. The prawn crackers were nice though.

Must go or it will be shortly be noon. Hoping that I get up early enough tomorrow to finish the 'trade secrets' and publish before Gill's hour-long phone call. If not you'll just have to wait that bit longer. Most of you will probably be having a lie-in anyway. It's not that my blog is - like important.

Whatever the weather, make sure you enjoy your day, and if Kathryn is reading this - think positive. Every cloud has a silver lining when we look for it. The trick is to cast our eyes up to see clouds, not keep our heads hanging down in sadness. As they used to say (esp in wartime) "keep your chin up". TTFN.