Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Being Sensible

Am pleased in a way that some readers have said they agree with me about the benefit system (too much paid out etc). Sairy gives a good account of how people - when jobs are lost - HAVE to cope on very little money coming in. She herself has had to do this. Scarlet too is also incensed about the lady (mentioned in the earlier blog) who doesn't want her benefits to be 'capped' due to not wishing to lower her standard of living.

The problem with me is that maybe I'm just too old, with memories of the way things used to be, when honesty and hard work meant more than they seem to today, and if we wanted a better life then we knew it had to be earned. Money was not accessible as it is today (credit cards etc), so everyone lived within their means.
Family life was more stable, old folk ended their days living within a family, mothers stayed at home to rear children, and children disciplined more, not allowed to run free and expect (nay demand) a 'pressie' every time there was an opportunity. Marriage meant responsibility, giving up the former way of life to buckle down and hope to earn enough to give children a better life, and also teach the the right way to get there. Children's care came first.
Now it is a lot more 'me, me, me', and 'spend, spend, spend' and 'who cares about saving money? Spend it all now and we don't then have to look after ourselves, the state will do it for us'.

People still work, but if they lose a job, then many won't take another until it is exactly the one they want. True, some people with degrees are not too proud to end up as window-cleaners or milkmen, they know the value of earned income. Others turn their noses up at any kind of work beneath them. "It's too hard", "I'm better than that"...."Unsocial hours" we hear it all the time.
Will we ever return to the hard-working, responsible citizens of yesteryear? Seems unlikely.

Think it was in the Monday Daily Mail that a few hours ago discovered yet another article about lower and middle-income earnings and where it all goes. The current average household income figures for these classes are given as £25,000 before tax and £20,500 after tax. But also includes couples without children living on a gross annual income between £12,000 and £29,000.
In a way I can relate to this as B and I now have no family living with us, and - as retired - the only income coming is is the state pension, this being slightly less than £12,000 per annum (so classed as 'poverty level'. That's a laugh. Poverty in today's world perhaps, certainly not in ours. We can manage very well on the state pension.

The article shows where part of the current average household income goes. Housing/energy taking 15%, food 13%, travel 12%. In other words 41% goes on 'essentials.
What I'd like to know what happens to the other 59%, this presumably classed as 'disposable income'? Going back again to 'my day' we were lucky to have any disposable income at all left over after the bills were paid. Money was earned to pay the bills, anything else was deemed a luxury - which was rare.

When I then read "With nearly 6 million households are struggling to pay bills, and unable to afford simple pleasures..... and about 45% of this group do not have enough money to go away on holiday, 40% cannot afford to replace furniture (does furniture wear out? Maybe cushions and fabric, but as Superscrimpers show we should be able to mend/replace these ourselves). Twentyfour per cent cannot now afford a night out with friends and family at least once a month (well it does cost a lot to buy a round of drinks these days, so a good reason to start 'dining in'). Eight per cent cannot afford to buy two decent pairs of outdoor shoes." (Good shoes should last years, so no reason to buy two pairs each year?). It is reading this that I It is realise more than ever that our now 'want not need' 'throw-away' society has dug a hole that it now is finding almost impossible to climb out from. Today we never repair, just throw away. Shudder when a hole appears in a sock, just chuck it out and buy new ones. Change the house decor every year or so because fashion decrees. And buy as much ready-prepared food as possible because we aren't meant to slave away over a hot stove nowadays. Every sensible solution to today's problems obviously takes up too much 'me-time' for this very selfish nation.

It has been calculated that the annual cost of putting food on the table has risen by £427 ahead of any increase over the last decade. Well that's not all THAT much over 10 years, and 10 years ago food was pretty cheap by normal standards.

Yet we are not all to blame, for he worst thing that ever happened to us was the introduction of credit cards and the way the government encouraged us to purchase as much as we could to bring industry back on its feet after the war. From then on people just bought and bought and bought and now, because the bug has bit so to speak, now many have spent too much over time, only affording to paying back interest, still owing thousands to the bank. 'The plastic' does avoid carrying around cash, but why not just restrict these to debit cards so that only money we already have goes towards what we wish to purchase? When our money is limited, then we have no choice other that to buy only what we can afford. Hire purchase has been around for probably all my life-time, but again limited to what we could pay from weekly or monthly earnings.

This young generation will just have to get used to living as we older folk managed to do very successfully many years ago. Maybe then they will realise that through most of their lifetime they have already been living a life of luxury that our ancestors could only dream of having. Never could it be in their reach. This recession could turn out to be a good thing if it brings back old values and old skills, and a bit more understanding of responsibility. Not sure how this will affect industry, but recessions are not new and the phoenix always manages to rise from the ashes.
At the moment we really have to stand back and take stock for things could get a lot worse before they begin to get better. But as ever - this is a challenge that many will find they quite enjoy. Let us hope all readers of this blog will believe this, and 'enjoy the moment'.

A welcome to Mrs G (Linda) who is sending in her first comment. The query about sauces used in Chinese cooking is not so easy to answer as there are quite a number: sweet and sour, black bean sauce, oyster sauce...to name but a few. Myself tend to buy the sachets of 'ready-sauces' that can be stirred into a stir-fry, and often do open a jar of 'sweet and sour sauce' (any surplus can be frozen). Chinese five-spice powder will usually give an authentic flavour to a stir-fry, and as Les says, adding a little liquid slaked with arrowroot will thicken the stir-fry when added towards the end of the 'fry-time'. A little tomato ketchup, honey, soy sauce and pineapple (or orange) juice thickened with arrowroot makes a type of home-made sweet and sour sauce, and the reason why arrowroot is used is because it makes a clear sauce, unlike cornflour which makes a sauce opaque.

Also a comment from an Anonymous (no name given), re her problem of having to often make three meals a day to suit the various family likes/dislikes. Let us hope you have a freezer Anon, for then you could make meals in bulk then freeze in individual portions. Pasta dishes (lasagne etc) freeze well. These would be suitable for two family members and if two fillings were made (one meat-based), meals for three could be made up at the same time, frozen or served 'fresh'.
Myself would enjoy the challenge of cooking three different dishes on a daily basis because then I could 'play' at being chef in a restaurant. Plan the menu cook the meals etc. But that's me - find a way to enjoy what we do. There always is a way to make life better (without spending money).

Yesterday made myself a vegetable soup (onion, celery, carrot, and parsnip with chicken stock). Because there was a bottle of soy sauce left on the kitchen table, decide to add a few drops to my nearly finished bowl of soup and was very surprised to find it didn't taste 'oriental' at all. It gave the soup a really beefy flavour. Once read that when making a beef casserole, it is always a good idea to add a spoonful or so of soy sauce - for that very reason. Worth remembering if you are cutting down on meat and still wishing to keep as much 'beef' flavour as possible.

During the afternoon had another go at making a fruit loaf. This time used a white bread mix (think it was a Carr's), adding a tablespoon of sugar and a good sized knob of Flora Pro-Active (as felt it saved using the butter, and also healthier for me). The dough was made in the bread machine, dried fruit being added half-way through the cycle.

One problem with oven-baked dough is that often it becomes too 'crusty' - which can be pleasant enough and probably expected with a 'home-bake', but fruit loaves (when bought) are normally softer crust, so this time decided to cover the loaf tin with a tent of kitchen foil, folding the sides of the foil around the roll-edge of the tin (otherwise the fan oven would blow it off). The ends were left open and there was plenty of room above the dough.

After the full cooking time (45 mins at 180C), removed the foil and the loaf was nicely brown and well risen but the crust very soft. It fell out of the tin easily enough, but was concerned it wasn't cooked through due to the 'softness'. However, bit the bullet and left the bread to cool on a cake airer, and this evening cut a slice and it was PERFECT. The foil 'tent' almost certainly had helped 'steam' the loaf a bit, and this kept the crust soft, but also the crumb part was quite similar and moist, very like shop-bought bread, but better. The bread cut easily and certainly wasn't undercooked. As I said, perfect in every way. In future will 'tent' all fruit loaves with foil, and maybe even some of the plain 'whites' and 'browns'.

Have to dash, forgot it was Norma the Hair day today, hope you can join me again tomorrow, see you then.