Sunday, January 29, 2012

Cheaper Ways...

Beginning today with a photo of 'my' baked beans, once they had cooked in the crockpot. These started life as one 500g pack of dried haricot beans (98p), and after soaking in cold water (free) overnight, then began cooking them in half a carton of tomato juice (42p worth used). Later adding some leftover syrup (allowed 10p for that) and juice from a can of sliced peaches (juice 'free' as the fruit was to be used for a trifle). This came to £1.50.

This next picture shows the beans once they have been put into a glass bowl - so you get a better idea of how much was made. This beans/sauce (not the bowl) weighed 2kg, so that meant they now weighed four times their original dried weight. As you can see the sauce is just about the right amount, and certainly less that that 'supplied' in many of the canned beans.
As baked beans come in 450g cans, that meant the beans below would have filled about four and half cans, and probably works out at about the same price as the cheapest canned beans (34p) so was it worth it? Certainly was impressed by the flavour of mine (even though not as good as Heinz), and having a pack of dried haricot beans meant that if I ran out of canned it was easy enough to make my own.
Passata might have been cheaper to use than tomato juice (bought to drink), the peach syrup ws used because many years ago read that peaches were used as a flavouring for beans (or was it ketchup?) anyway it worked. The 'bean sauce' was exactly how I like it, very slightly sweet and not too runny.

While I had the camera in the kitchen, decided to take a couple of photos of my now sprouted lemon pips. Can't quite remember when these were sowed, probably around Christmas when I'd been making a batch of lemon curd. As you can see, once they had sprouted (kept them over a c.h. radiator to do this), moved them to the conservatory windowsill protected by half a plastic lemonade bottle (mini-greenhouse).

In the picture below you get a better idea of what the shoots look like, and although only six pips were sown, several seem to have thrown off two shoots, so will let them grown on a bit before re-potting, then may be able to divide them up to grow even more 'lemon trees'. As said before, these could make good and very unusual gifts to give to family and friends who like indoor pot plants. Perfect presents for next Christmas.

Did a bit of price comparison yesterday re the 'five-a-day' and it does seem that if we include canned produce it will work out cheaper than if we rely only on the 'fresh'. For instance one orange could cost at least 25p, but a carton of orange juice (62p ltr) works out at around 10p per 'serving'. An apple could be around 15p each, apple juice would - likewise -work out cheaper.

Compare the following prices to any 'fresh' that you might have bought, and then possibly you could supplement your diet with more of the 'readies' as a way to save money but still get your five-or-more-a-day. Am giving the lowest prices, normally 'own-brand'/value packs.

Canned Peaches (29p): = 2 servings for 15p

Canned tomatoes (42p): = 4 servings for 10p

Canned Sweetcorn (42p): = 3 servings for 14p

Canned Peas (24): = 3 servings for 8p

Canned red (and other) beans (42p): = 3 servings for 14p

Canned carrots (17p): = 3 servings for 6p

Canned Mixed vegetables (39p): so count as half to one serving

With the canned mixed veg you could be getting the full five, but not quite enough of each, but at least this might work out the cheapest way of all. It's also useful to compare the prices (per serving) against frozen veg (these I feel superior to canned and often cheaper AND 'fresher' than buying fresh produce over the counter).

Now for a look at how the stores and manufacturers are working to tempt us to buy more, starting first with the concern they feel over the governments wish to slash the nation's daily calorie intake. "Behind the scenes there has been frantic negotiation to reach a compromise..." as many companies do not wish to reformulate or reduce the size of their portions "as this would have been hugely damaging to the brand" (this from a well-known confectionery manufacturer).

Seems that by having to change the calorie count of many products would cause so many problems (new machinery, packaging etc) that this might even put up the price of 'healthy eating'. We will have to wait and see.

An interesting challenge by the British Frozen Food Federation led to surprising results. They fed diners identical plates of pub grub, and no diner could spot the difference between dishes made with frozen ingredients, and those made from fresh, and "the pub menu was used to demonstrate to diners and pub owners the lower cost and reduced waste that frozen offers without compromising quality" said the BFFF spokesperson.

As frozen veg are processed within minutes of being picked, and 'fresh' can often be hanging around stores for some days, seems that frozen does make sense, and if it works out cheaper for 'the trade', it could also work out cheaper for us consumers.

You have to laugh. An 'age verification' alert was triggered by a £1.19 pack of six Basic teaspoons at a self-scan checkout in Sainsbury's (Crawley branch). When the customer asked why the spoons had to be 'verified' she was told "could be used for drugs paraphernalia". Later the store said the scanning system recognised the spoon's SKU (?) as one for a knife.

We must keep venting our spleen whenever we get the chance, for a survey has now shown that "frustrated shoppers believe that 'supermarkets have not done enough to reduce the price of the weekly shop', with older Brits feel the strongest, with 79% saying the level of prices are 'disappointing'."

Far be it from me to suggest we go out and buy confectionery, but as there will be a limited edition of Smarties in a retro hexatube format to mark the brand's 75th anniversary this year (rolling out to the trade from this coming week), and remembering how 'very old or limited stock' can be sold on eBay for a good price, maybe this is the type of investments we would find most profitable. So why not buy a couple to leave as a legacy for your great-grand children to flog? Just don't open the box and eat the contents.

It doesn't take much for the manufacturers of 'healthy eating' to get on the band-wagon of 'instants'. Quorn is targeting the lunchtime market with a range of vegetarian 'meal pots'. If you wish to pay £2.79p for 300g pot of Chicken style Biryani or Tagine, or Pasta Bolognese (these containing between 285 and 345 calories each), then why not? Myself KNOW I could make my own 'pot-not-quite-noodle lunch pot for far less cost.

Cereals take over several pages of the mag. Basically there has been a volume slump in sales even though the promotional activity has increased. This is causing concern to both manufacturers and retailers. A lot written about different types of breakfast cereals, but the good news is that consumers seem now to prefer products made with oats. So what do we see?

A Quaker Oats So Simple topper pot (saw it advertised on TV just last night), Basically a pot of porridge with 'cluster' toppings of either chocolate chunks or strawberry pieces. "Ready to eat in two minutes after hot water is added". Available from 6th February and (wait for it) 'at an rsp of £1.29p'. It doesn't say it comes in packs, so probably that is the price for just one!!!

At least a porridge brand called 'Oat Burst' now is selling porridge in sachets, these either sold in 12-packs of 'plain', or 10-packs flavoured with golden syrup, strawberry and apricot and honey. Not a bad price either as the rsp is £1.88p a box, with an introductory price of £1. At the offer price that is around 8p for a bowl of porridge (not including milk etc), but even so - still twice the price than if made (easily and quickly) in the microwave using bog standard (unbranded) porridge oats.

Price of jam is increasing due to the cost of sugar, and it now seems we are prepared to be a bit selective about who we serve the best to. Maybe I got it wrong but this does seem to read as though the kids can make do with the rubbish, whilst mum and day get the luxury "Consumers are now making a distinction between the jam used in the kid's sandwich after school and the jam eaten over a leisurely weekend breakfast with toast and croissants".

Proves again that we should all make our own jam so everyone gets the best, as 'the best home-made' costs less than the worst jam on sale.

Gill will be phoning in about five minutes - and as her calls last a full hour, feel it better I publish this now, and any more from the mag will be mentioned tomorrow. Hope you can join me then.