Monday, January 30, 2012

Time is of the Essence

Later start than normal due to late rising (dreaming again!), plus decided to make some Apricot EasyYo yogurt whilst the water was boiling for my morning coffee, also did a few other 'culinary' activities. Then had my coffee and pills, came in here and spent a few minutes working out why it is that B ALWAYS brings in more groceries than requested, as yesterday this expense was more than my allotted £10 due to him not 'listening' (or more likely having what he wanted not what I wanted).

We were running low on butter and B won''t eat marg or any other spread, so asked him to check on Lurpak (his favourite) and bring in a block ONLY if it was under £1.50 a pack. So he brings in four packs, each priced at £1.60! If he could only have waited a couple of weeks I could have bought Tesco's Value butter (which he says "tastes as good as Lurpak") at £1.19 a block and saved £1.74p.

Food bought was 6 navel oranges (35p each), a bag of Gala apples (£1 - and VERY good value as 9 in the pack = 11p each), 2 x 4 pint containers of milk (price gone up), another Pukka Pie for £1(he now can't resist them, but they are very good), grapes £1.87 (didn't need them but B wanted them), and four packs of Lurpak (a massive £6.40!).

Of course there is still enough food in store to keep B well fed for several more weeks if not months, but - like so many of us - once in a store he does get tempted, and as the food he buys will be eaten, this just leaves me more in store. It's not as though we are spending hand over fist, even with this last expense, still well under the £10 a week 'budget' since Christmas.
Maybe I worry too much, trying to prove something that no-one is really interested in aiming for. Possibly just 'cutting down drastically on purchases' instead of 'cutting out altogether' is possibly the way to go.
In any case will shortly have to place an on-line delivery with Tesco as need to stock-up ready for my marathon dessert 'cook-in' for B's sailing club in a few weeks. Waiting until the last minute is never a good idea (been there, done that....) as more often than not the store has run out of what is needed, and then means a frantic chase round other stores. I don't do chasing. Me, I like to feel secure, knowing I have everything to hand when needed.

Due to my wish to get yesterday's blog published before Gill rang (managed it by the skin of my teeth), forgot to reply to comments that had been sent in. Do apologise for this and am doing this now, followed by replies to those that came in later.

Having one than one man in the family almost certainly means our larder/fridge gets raided for snacks. Gillibob has this problem. Mind you, when our son AND grandson used to do this I was always content, more so than when B did it. Most be the mother in me. Thankfully, other than ice-cream, the rest of the frozen food is left alone due to it not being for 'instant' eating. Pity we can't keep everything in the freezer.
One way to prevent food being eaten that is intended to be kept, is to keep these in boxes or tins that are labelled 'do not touch' or 'not to be eaten', leaving a certain amount of (say bacon, biscuits) for those that have stomachs like bottomless pits. Should do this myself, but perhaps because when stores become depleted (esp in the fridge) I can then 'go shopping' again, which is - I have to say - something I really do love to do, even though these days it is confine to foods (plus some non-foods like detergents, loo rolls etc).

Welcome back to Elaine who has a husband who doesn't help himself to food, and as he sounds as though he prefers to be waited on, not sure whether that is good or bad. If he asks for snacks etc to be brought to him, would suggest you explain that you have put cake/biscuits in tins, and other snacks (that he likes) in the fridge, so that he can help himself when the need to eat comes over him. Just provide him with his main meals and then let him sort the rest out himself.

The wartime rations of a suggested 3 - 4 baked potatoes a day Sairy would have been because these are extremely 'filling/satisfying' so not a lot more food (there wasn't a lot more anyway) needs to be served with them. Cabbage has always been a healthy veg. to eat, especially those with dark green leaves, the winter kale being one of the best. Even though in those days the nutritonal value of foods wasn't understood as it is today, it seemed that the insistence to 'eat your greens' told to us as children (by mothers AND grandmothers) was for a good reason.
The 'two other veg' would probably be carrots or swedes, or anything in season that was able to be bought (or grown) in any amount, for some reason onions always being in very short supply. If they had the equivalent of eBay in those days, an onion would have been able to be sold for a LOT of money. As it was then in what what called 'the Black Market'.

Your husband Sairy sounds as though he was brought up in a large family (as was B) during the war years, but doesn't seem to feel as deprived as B seems to think he was. Possibly this is due to your OH's good upbringing and his other siblings ready to share. According to B, his brothers always grabbed the food before B got a chance, so he was left with 'the leavings'. Am sure this was not the case, more the way B thinks it was.
One of our daughters (a clone of her father, and now living in America for a 'better life' which has not come up to her expectations - but nothing ever does) always used to complain that her brothers and sisters got more than she did, and this was absolutely not true. When we tried to reason with her, she said she wanted better than they were given. Once or twice gave her the opportunity to choose which gift she would like from several, saying to her 'the ones she didn't want would be given to her sisters' and this really upset her, for whichever she chose, she tgeb said she'd made a mistake and her sister's gifts were still better than hers.
This craving 'for better' or 'more than' must be a type of personality that is embedded in the genes, and as it can't seem to be altered, just have to live with it.

Having caught up with the previous comments, carrying on with the next....
The recent shopping bill has shown that the price of some fresh 'five-a-day' fruit is way beyond that of canned fruit (one orange costing more than 1.5 cans of sliced peaches). Even if an orange was shared, still makes it a much more expensive 'portion', than that from a can of fruit.
The apples WERE good value. So, Urbanfarmgirl, worth buying canned fruit that is low price or 'on offer' and certainly those of us who have room in the garden should plan this year to plant fruit bushes and small fruit trees (blueberries, raspberries, gooseberries, black and redcurrants et). 'Patio' cherry, apple, plum and pear trees also worth growing if garden space is limited. We can always freeze the fruit to enjoy during the winter months (our redcurrant bush has been loaded the last two years, and we only planted it 2.5 years ago).

Think the slump in 'cereal' sales is more to do with the processed cereals such as cornflakes and the like sue15cat. For some reason oats come under a different category. The article in the trade mag listed the 'top 10 bestsellers' (starting at the top with Special K, followed by Weetabix, Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes, Kellog's Corn Flakes, Quaker Oat So Simple, Coco Pops, Cheerios, Shreddies, Shredded Wheat, and last on the list - Rice Krispies). Even so, the overall 'volume' of sales has dropped. All these cereals are what I call 'processed'. Porridge oats are as near to 'natural' as we can get, but now more and more being packaged with other things (as mentioned yesterday) so that manufacturers and retailers can make more profit.

This year we will be seeing a lot more pressure (by the government and nutritionists) for the nation to 'eat healthily'. 'Ready meals' will contain less calories and more veg (probably this means using less meat to keep the package weight the same, but this won't make the meals any less expensive, probably the reverse), and so there will probably be lot of new 'healthy' products appearing on the shelves. The Oats So Simple topper pots mentioned yesterday is an example. Avoid 'basic', add flavour then reap in the profits seems to be the order of the day.

How much would a coffee and muffin cost if bought from a coffee shop (mentioned in a comment)? Quite a lot I should think. Simple enough to make a flask of coffee and have home-baked muffins in the freezer to take out and eat and drink 'on the hoof' so to speak. Keep the savings to pay for a holiday in the Maldives.
The best AND cheapest way to eat healthily is to avoid all these cereal gimmicks, pressure from Starbucks etc , buy basic ingredients, fresh produce, and make up our own meals right through from breakfast to supper. Let us hope more do this.

After reading the supplement on 'oil' yesterday, feel I'm in a bit of a quandary. What is true? What isn't? For as a cook have always read AND believed that extra virgin olive oil should never be used for cooking - always use cold in small quantities to add flavour to a salad dressing for instance, but as you will see in one of the the extracts taken from the supplement, this is now not the case. Extra virgin being the most expensive, seems that they will suggest anything to get us to buy more of it.

"The trend towards consumers staying in and cooking during the economic downturn has been to the undoubted benefit of edible oils. As consumers experiment more in the kitchen, they are increasing the number of oils in their repertoire: for instance choosing extra virgin olive oil for dripping and drizzling, standard olive oil for marinades, light and mild oils to complement delicate flavours and seed oils for basting and frying".

The above seems only to apply to the more wealthy who initially used to 'eat out' rather than cook. For one thing they probably have to learn how to cook rather than 'experiment' (this can be costly when you get it wrong), and even those past novice level would rather not be confused as to how many different types of oil need to be kept in the larder. If you ARE a person who understands the value of different oils, then almost certainly is already an experienced cook who rarely eats out.

"Extra-virgin olive oil is another varient that continues to build a loyal fan-base. However, he fact that the per capita consumption is extra virgin is only half a litre per annum proves that the market is still at the incubation stage... there are millions of litres of potential growth yet to be captured by UK multiples. The key to unlock this is by persuading and enabling consumers to use extra virgin in every day cooking. Taking extra virgin beyond the occasional drizzle on a salad will unleash fantastic incremental sales."

From a retail aspect this makes sense, after all - business is business, but it does show how a store is always looking for ways to pull a few more of our spending strings. For instance there was a 'tailored Christmas promotion' to give (oil) consumers a chance to win up to £10,000..."the on-pack offer proved to be a great mechanic to attract people to purchase. It sold through quicker than expected and consumer penetration over the 12 weeks up to Christmas ncreased by over 15% as a result".

Another slightly disturbing bit of info is "We have found shoppers are particularly willing and indeed expect to pay the full rsp for oils that add a point of difference.....and if suppliers can effectively communicate to consumers the usage occasions of speciality oil, they have the potential to add significant value to the category."

"The growth in fine home dining during the economic downturn has presented fine food categories such as specialist oils with a unique opportunity for growth. As more and more people enjoy following intricate, fine food recipes at home, that opportunity is growing as more and more specialist oils are being used as key ingredients in everything from stir-fries and sauces o home-made dressings and cakes."

Quite honestly, the above makes me wonder if I don't try hard enough to put 'fine-dining' on the table, having never found it necessary to use 'intricate recipes'. Cooking for guests is stressful enough without having to make it complicated. Mind you, all this chat about the oil varients is making me think twice. Perhaps I should keep more than just sunflower, extra V and truffle oil in my larder.

One manufacturer has a mission to get UK consumers cooking with extra virgin olive oil. Their ad shows a bottle with the message under saying: "Extra Virgin British style: A drizzle here, a drizzle there, save it for the salad!" and underneath that "Extra Virgin Spanish style: Pour it on! Litres of the stuff. 99% of it for cooking."

"The myth that consumers have to use a lesser quality 'refined' oil in cooking is blown out of the water with the advent of *** " say the manufacturers (not giving the brand as don't wish to give them free advertising).
They continue..."So called pure and refined oils have undergone harsh chemical extraction and refining processes. High heat and strong chemicals are used to extract, de-gum, neutralise, deodorise and bleach the oil. The resulting de-natured oil has virtually no taste or smell, and so a small amount of standard extra virgin is added to improve some minimal olive oil character. Amazingly these 'refined' oils are sold in the UK at virtually the same price as the treasured extra virgin."

If the above is the case, then how can we sort the wheat from the chaff? Probably make sure we buy a reputable brand of extra-virgin, and go for a sensible and cheaper frying oil (then mix the two together for other purposes).
Despite olive oil said to be one of the healthiest for us (and probably still is) the following may be of interest when it comes to making a choice...
Olive oil: contains 15% saturated fatty acids, 75% monounsaturated ans 10% polyunsaturated.
Rapeseed oil: contains 5% saturated fatty acids, 15% monounsaturated and 15% polyunsaturated.
Sunflower oil: contains 5% saturated fatty acids, 25% monounsaturated and 65% polyunsaturated
Peanut (groundnut) oil: contains 20% saturated fatty acids, 50% monounsaturated and 30% polyunsaturated.
Corn oil: contains 15% saturated fatty acids, 35% monounsaturated and 59% polyunsaturated.

...and because I save chicken fat skimmed from the top after making chicken stock (I include the chicken skin to get extra) to use for cooking/frying, it is good to know that my reference books tell me that "chicken fat is not too saturated for an animal fat, with 35% saturated fatty acids, 50% monounsaturated (i.e. neutral), and 15% polyunsaturated, depending upon what the chicken has eaten.
Chicken fat is softer and nearer in consistency to oil than other animal fats. When clarified it fries well and can be heated to 200C (392) without burning. It is much used in south-western France and in Jewish cooking".
Considering the price we have to pay for all fats, why not make our own for 'free' each time we make chicken stock?

Hope some of the above has given good food for thought. Now must dash off into the kitchen to make the most of the rest of the morning. Time is of the essence they say. Use it or lose it.

Looks like being a lovely day today, blue sky (which means lots of sunshine), but still very cold with frost still on the lawn. Snow forecast for several places, but doubt we will get any, but each morning the dawn breaks earlier and can feel spring already stirring in my veins.

B had chilli con carne for supper last night. I was good and froze the surplus (really wanted to eat it, but am trying to lose a few more pounds, so ate a big bowl of strawberry yogurt and two oranges instead). Will perhaps cook that Pukka Pie for his meal tonight with some Brussels sprouts. As I made three individual trifles yesterday to use up the bit of cake I'd saved and the drained peaches (the syrup went into the baked beans), there are still two left, so no need for me to think about a pud, although might make a fruit pie as have thawed out some pastry. Also might make a quiche (both of us like quiche, B particularly as a snack), and a Bakewell Tart. Whatever I do, you will no doubt be told about it tomorrow. Hope to see you then.