Sunday, February 05, 2012

When Push comes to Shove

Late start to blogging as decided to get Gill's hour-long phone call over with before I began. She says Leicester is inches deep in snow, here we have none, just the few flakes seen when blogging yesterday, none of which settled. Thss morning began as a very misty day, not sure whether the grass was covered with dew or frost, but am sure it is still very cold outdoors. Not even poking my nose outside to check.

To answer your queries Les, I find I do need to use a walking stick to help support me when walking more than 50 yards, although can manage indoors without one, and also in smaller shops. The rare occasions I have been in a supermarket either use one of their scooters, or rely on the support given me by a shopping trolley. The main problem with me is backache which I find comes over me if I can't have something to lean on. Backache has been with me for more than 40 years due to a trapped disc and a still-trapped sciatic nerve. Never considered this to cause me to be called 'disabled', just - from time to time - my back causes me great pain. Losing weight has helped a lot, although occasionally this causes my back to ache more due to my balance slightly shifting and unused muscles then having to work again.

Yes, I do have a Blue disabled parking badge, this applied for when we first moved here and my legs were ulcerated and swollen and this made walking painful. The doctor signed the form for me, and I was sent the card. Whether it will be renewed without query I don't know, but have to admit it is useful to allow parking in some places where other cars can't.

Regarding the benefits for disabled being paid to those of working age. It is only the attendance allowance that is usually able to be claimed for. The thought of B having to be my 'carer' is a hoot. He would rather me go into a home than lift a finger to help. If I need any I'll have to get someone in to deal with it he says. He has refused to even help me cut my toe-nails when I couldn't bend down to reach them without difficulty. Thankfully, can cut them myself now. Yet he expects me to cut his hair for him (cheaper than going to a barber he says), and cosset him when he has 'man flu'.

To assemble a Croquembouche minimiser deb, the profiteroles are dipped into caramel then placed around a cone, the bottom ring first, more placed above (in ever decreasing circles to a final one on top) the caramel helping them to stick together. The cone holds them all in place.
This can then be lifted and mine will probably be put into a deep cardboard box to put in the car to take to the social club (about half a mile away). Should be no problem with its safety.

Thanks Frugal Queen for telling us about your Approved Food bargains. As there are two footie matches on today (on after t'other), will have time to sit at the comp and view their site and see what is on offer, especially when it comes to the long-shelf-life products. As you say, you have stocked up for a year for very low cost indeed. Inspiring comment for us all to read.
As m.deb has read, it is also possible to save up to £400 a year buying/using frozen meat and veg instead of buying 'fresh'. With no loss of vitamins with the veg (these are frozen within minutes of being picked, sold 'fresh' they could be on the supermarket or our shelves for days), it makes sense.

Alison has made butter - this giving a by-product of buttermilk (great for baking/scones etc), and although using her Kenwood, those who have only a liquidiser/blender will find this also makes perfect butter. Just put double cream into the 'jug' and start blending. Soon the cream will begin to split and globs of butter appear. Carry on and it gathers together in a clump. Add a little cold water, give a final blitz, then strain. Keep the liquid (buttermilk), and then work the butter into a slab, pressing out any water that it holds. A pinch of salt helps to give it a good flavour.
It won't be quite as yellow as some bought butter, as this often contains a food colouring. But it is real butter, and depending upon the cost of the cream, it should work out no more expensive than butter bought over the counter.

Not a lot in the trade mag worth mentioning this week. Quite a bit written about 'reduced interest from speculators in 2012'. Also global weather conditions possibly causing rising prices with some imported products such as maize, orange juice, soybean. Sugar could be lower in price but as 'especially vulnerable to interventionist policies' seems we are in the hands of of various 'export policies'. Seems to me that food products are as important (if not more so) in the banking industry, and we know what can happen with banks!

The EU ban on battery cages has been sending egg prices skywards recently, although (thankfully for us consumers) 'the price rises look as though they might be slowing down'. Yet milk prices have remained high despite a rise in milk production.
It does seem there is little chance we can see prices dropping, even if there is a good reason why they should.

There is continuing pressure to sell new products, the target area at the moment being the younger shoppers. One manufacturer is launching a new Bake in a Box meal range "designed to serve one person as a meal or two as an accompaniment. These consist of two sachets of ingredients that can be emptied into the supplied cardboard box with added water or milk and baked in the oven for 30 minutes".
"It's about categories that need a bit of investment and seeing how we can bring new consumers in at the younger end of the scale" says the brand manager.

Warburtons has added two new varieties to its Seeded Batch bread range. These being 'Toasted Seeds' - a blend of wholemeal bread with a blend of toasted seeds, and Seeds and Cereals, a brown base with a blend of seeds and cereals. Both priced at £1.80 a loaf.
What grieves me is the cost of bread today. In my early days of marriage a big and crusty farm style loaf cost only pennies, and it was certainly better than the bread on sale today. It just doesn't seem fair to charge so much more for 'artisan' bread, just because it is 'good'. Time perhaps to charge a lot less for the soft, pappy, moist, sliced crumb that we now thing of as normal bread.

Lunch-box food is also something manufacturers are pushing in our face. There is 'an innovative' new cottage cheese format "aimed at shoppers looking for a healthy lunchtime snack". The 200g 'snack-pot' consists of a tub of cottage cheese, a sachet of tomato chutney, and four crackers, priced at £1. As the 200g is total weight, then we should be able to easily make our own - almost identical - version for far less cost.

As if we don't know enough already, we are now being encouraged to Think Outside the Box and become more adventurous in the way we use eggs. Apart from videos showing 'how to' (on YouTube), the recipes will also be promoted at the website.
And there is me still trying to perfect poaching an egg!

Much of the trade mag is given over to 'how the giants are learning new tricks', but where I hope for useful inside info for consumers, discovered the articles relate to wholesalers, and it is the retailers who need to know what is coming up.

A double page supplement came with the mag., this more of an ad dealing with quilted toilet tissues. Seems that now "the challenge comes from providing something extra for the consumer whilst still managing to grow an already over-subscribed category... manufacturers either need to find something new or better than they already offer to capture the consumer's attention".

So, you just might be interested in knowing that at least one brand of quilted toilet tissue is now going to introduce double-sided quilting... "to give a soft and cushioned feeling on both side unlike normal quilted products which are only quilted on one side".
For heaven's sake - do we 'use' both sides of the paper at any one time (quilted or otherwise)?

Reading on see that rolls of extra-quilted could give higher profit margins..."looser wrapped rolls work to protect the double-quilted softness and at the same time fewer sheets per roll allows each pack to be priced lower than the regular products, giving much more consumer appeal, whilst generating a higher return for the retailers. attractive price per pack gives consumers a reason to trade up to the premium level".

As a consumer, this tells me that because the paper is now to be quilted in 4 layers, and as needing to be wrapped 'loosely', this will give the appearance of large rolls of toilet tissue (or loo paper as it is called in the Goode bathroom, each containing far fewer sheets than the normal, so even if the price for the quilted is lower, we almost certainly would end up with a lot less sheets than the normal bog standard (excuse the pun). As we don't use quilted paper, if any did appear in our loo, I'd probably end up carefully separating each sheet into two or four before using just to make them go that much further.

Kitchen paper has as much written about it as the above. Seems that consumers want 'quality' (nothing wrong with that), 'looks nice' so needs to be visually appealing (what's wrong with plain white?). and 'good price/value for money', meaning not necessarily cheap but does its job.
Do we need 100 'oversized sheets' on a roll? The idea is that 70% larger sheets than the standard means less sheets are needed for 'mopping up'. I've always found normal size is good enough, and more often than not newspaper does the job just as well, also tea-towels (these can be washed and reused almost indefinitely).
One of the top brands of kitchen paper now has only 75 three-layered sheets per roll with a 'decorative floral print to look great in the kitchen'. Not sure if packs of kitchen paper (and loo rolls) show the sheets per pack, but this is yet another way we can end up with less for our money if we are not careful.

Final comment today is about a family mentioned this week in our newspaper. Both parents not working, umpteen children from earlier marriages on both sides, so given enough money in benefits to keep the Beckhams happy. Well they do seem to need it apparently to pay for Sky TV "because they can't afford to take the kids out, so they need TV for their entertainment'. They also spend a lot on lager, cigarettes and tobacco each week. Both parents and all their older children have a mobile phone each.
It was reckoned that by cutting out some lager and some ciggies (allowing them to roll their own using tobacco) they could save £100 a week. Somehow doubt they will even try. It's much, much more fun to have an incredibly better life living on benefits than any of those who really work to keep their heads above water.
What's so wrong with just allowing only enough money to live on, with none extra for luxuries? If you want more you have to earn it. Would even be better if there was no actual cash paid out, just money given directly to landlords, vouchers to buy food, everything else has to be claimed for and also paid for 'directly'. Lots of people still live without TV. We grew up without it, but found plenty of pleasure from listening to the radio, reading books, playing board games, card games and numerous outdoor activities (even cycle rides). Our own children grew up like this until nearly teenagers. They always had a full life, plenty of fresh air gave them appetites to eat almost anything, and also meant they were 'healthily' tired at the end of the day. No stopping up until late, most were in bed by 7.00pm. One of the things they looked forward to was each birthday (after five years old) was being allowed to stop up 15 minutes later, or allowed to read in bed for that extra time.

Made the minestrone soup yesterday from 2 carrots (not very large ones either), two onions, 3 ribs celery, some finely shredded white cabbage, all fried in a little oil, then added water, beef stock cube, can of chopped tomatoes, and finally, an oxtail cuppa soup to give it a bit more meat flavour, later adding some pasta penne, and at the end some home-cooked (thawed) broad beans. It made a huge panful. I had a bowl for my lunch, B had a big bowl for his supper, and I also had another. Today will finish of what's left for my lunch (B will have lamb shank for his meal tonight).

The last of the 'fresh' milk is finished today, but still have plenty of UHT in the larder. Not sure what I'll do about ordering on-line. My fresh stocks (fruit/veg) are now really low, and as I've not spent more than £23 total on food since a week before Christmas, this does mean by the time the groceries arrive, it will be a good 8 weeks since the last delivery. Obviously could last out another month if relying on canned/frozen foods (have butter, marg, and can make bread), and also still have a dozen eggs plus umpteen dry goods and jams/marmalade, flour, oats, sugar etc...) not to mention corned beef, canned tuna, sardines, salmon. When it comes to 'fresh veg', well still have plenty in the freezer, so not as badly off as first thought. So often we forget what a good stock of everything our freezers can hold.

Thing is - do I order, do I carry on 'surviving'. Tempting to do the latter. Will just have to wait and see. You know me, even I don't know what I'll do next. Join me tomorrow, then maybe we will all find out.