Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Today is the First Day....

Before I begin today's blog proper, would first like to add the final part of 'the value of home-jointing a chicken'.
The photo below shows only a few of the many packs of joints prepared for the freezer. This mainly so you cn see how I write the contents on the bags using a marker pen (6 chicken wings; 3 chicken thighs; 1 chicken breast etc...). This saves the and expense and of messing around with freezer labels. The next picture shows the bowl of chicken stock once it had been reduced slightly and then poured into a bowl and chilled. I measured it carefully and it was exactly 2 pints (2 x 600ml). It has set (gelled) quite firmly so is fairly concentrated. meaning less can be used when needed.
I couldn't believe how the 'fresh' chicken stock on Tesco's website was so expensive (£2 for 300g/half pint), so checked the price again this morning. Would you believe it was no longer on the site? Not that it mattered for I then discovered that Knorr had two similar 'stocks' (gel and liquid form), one being Knorr Chicken Gel Pots: 6 little 'gel's, total weight 224g priced at £2.59! The other was a sachet of Knorr Stockpot Chicken for £1.46 (£1.31p per 100g).

Pricing my home-made stock with the original price given for 'fresh' chicken stock, this means my 2 pints would have cost me £8 if bought over the counter, almost as much as the total price for the three whole chickens! Working on the cost of the Knorr equivalent, would still have saved a great deal of money as my own stock - reduced down further - would fill 24 ice-cube trays to make my own little 'gels' (know this because I've done it before), and buying the similar Knorr product would have cost a £1 MORE than the total cost of three whole chickens.

On paper I've managed to prove to myself (and my Beloved who checked it for me and was impressed) that jointing those three birds myself and making the stock etc, it would work out to £25 MORE to buy the same (in packaged form) over the counter.

We now come to Monday. No blog that day because an early start as we were collecting our daughter and going off to Barton Grange. Early arrival needed to make sure there was a scooter to be available for me to wander round the enormous (and wonderful) store. Went first to the Cook Shop where I managed to avoid buying (almost) anything, although did come out with a cook-book '100 recipes for Stir-fries' that I bought for my Beloved, and a roll of greaseproof paper. The latter because I'd recently read that we should always use greaseproof paper when baking pastry 'blind' as it makes a crisper base. When we use baking parchment (as I normally do), this tends to hold in the steam and the pastry base stays moister. Learn something new every day.

We went through the garden centre en route to the cafeteria, so decided to buy some seeds. The not-very-clear photo below shows the three packets of (different types) mixed salad leaves and one free pack of extra early sprouting broccoli (if you buy two packs of T & M seeds you have a choice of a free pack of either tomatoes (two types), yellow bell peppers, or broccoli.

Once I got the seeds home took a look at the contents and the pack of 'niche mixed' salad leaves can be sown and harvested all year round. The pack cost £2.09p and contained an average of 400 seeds (mixture of leaf radish, leaf carrot, wrinkled cress, red kale, red amaranth, purslane, and burnet).
The 'bright and spicy' salad leaves can also be grown all year round. This time the pack contained an average of 1500 seeds for £1.99p (so better value?). The mixture being Pac Choy, Choy Sum, Greek Cress, Mizuna, and Mustard Red Frills.
The third pack was a 'trial price' at 99p. Classed as 'winter greens' to be sown for salad leaves it also says the seedlings can be transplanted to grow into full sized plants. With an average of 150 seeds of a mixture of Komatsuma, Mizuna, Mustard Red Lion, and Pink Choy Red Wizard.
All seeds are viable until the autumn of 2014.

I did treat myself to one further pack of seeds - this being a pack containing 10 herb seed 'mats' - an easy way to grow my own herbs on the windowsill. For £3.69p don't think this was too pricey (one pot of fresh herbs if bought would cost a lot more than 37p).
With five varieties (two 'mats' each of Basil, Coriander, Chives, Mint, and Parsley) feel that these were worth the money. The shelf-life is short (up to August 2012), but they will be sown this year in two 'batches' to extend their use/life.

We stopped off to have some refreshment and I was about to ask for a bowl of hot soup, but then noticed the price: £4.55 a bowl (although that did include a 'free bread roll and butter'. Always it is the same with me - comparing the price of my home-made to that charged over the counter. Mind you, not a lot to pay considering Barton Grange is such a gorgeous place to visit I'd have been happy to pay an entrance fee - and we can wander round it for free!
Instead settled for a large scone with a pack of butter, a tiny jar of strawberry jam and a little tub of clotted cream. The scone was out of this world, never had one so light. Just wish I knew how it was made.

On the way to our final destination - the Barton Grange Farm Shop - had a little scoot again round the garden section and for some reason suddenly decided to veer off up a side aisle where the bird seed/bird table/bird box section was. As I didn't need anything to do with birds can only think a guiding hand led me there for as I rounded a corner suddenly met up with a young woman with a big trolley (blocking the way) and a little girl in tow. She immediately began talking to me and I became quite enthralled. Seemed she was buying one of her three daughters a birthday present, the daughter having said to her "don't buy me any games or toys Mummy, I'd like something for the garden". Apparently the mother was very keen on getting her children interested in wild-life and growing things. She then went on to tell me how she made her own bread, home-cooked meals etc, and also did some sewing/knitting. She said she loves to make as much as possible herself.
I queried whether she did patchwork and her face fell - "material is so expensive to buy" she said, so then I explained about church jumble sales and charity shops having curtains, clothes etc that she could cut up and use for patchwork and also could use to make her girl's clothes, and suggested buying hand-knitted garments, unravel, wash the wool (to remove the kinks) and re-knit into something else.
Her face lit up, "I'd never thought of that" she said. "Thank you so much". I replied that she was a very good mother, and hoped her family would appreciate the work she did, whereas she flushed and I could see this few words really made her feel good. She made me feel good too, knowing there was at least one young lady who cared enough about her family to bother to do what she did.

We finished our trip at the Farm Shop where I picked up a leaflet giving a list of frozen meals that could be bought there. Suffice to say that when I got home discovered the price for one serving was more than it would cost me to make something similar to serve six!

Although normally buy chicken breasts at Barton Grange, as I'd already got enough in the freezer decided this time to buy a 5lb pack of lamb mince for £12 which worked out good value for the money. When taken home then divided it up into 10 x 8oz packs and froze all but one which I will be using today.
Why did I buy more meat when I've already got such a lot in the freezers? Well, lamb is going up in price and lamb is one meat that I don't have a lot of. We have plenty of chicken, plenty of beef, and some pork (we don't eat a lot of pork), only two lamb shanks and one lamb mini-roast, so felt that minced lamb would 'make a change'. My excuse anyway.

Meeting that young lady made me realise how much better it is for the children if mothers could stay at home instead of going out to work. But then an extra wage is often felt to be necessary to have a good 'life-style' - although working all day, having to fit in house-work in spare time, then doing the shopping for all the 'readies' because there isn't time to cook from scratch, doesn't leave much time to spend with the children does it? And a 'good standard of living' isn't worth a jot if it means giving up 'family time together'.

Obviously a 'working girl' spends more money than if she stayed at home. True, this money is earned, but how much of it left over to be saved? The better the job the more money has to be spent on keeping a good appearance (clothes, accessories, hair-do etc), maybe even the running costs of a car has to be taken into account. Not to mention the need to buying more 'ready-made' meals, take-aways, the cakes, biscuits etc, just because there is no time to make them. The worse expense can be paying for a child minder or creche.

Yesterday asked B what would a person expect to be paid today? He thought £10 an hour would be 'reasonable'. So this got me thinking - as I'd been able to save (theoretically) £25 in less than one hour's work doing that 'chicken thing' this was almost better 'pay' than if I'd been out at work (and done in relative comfort, wearing my old clothes!). This should prove that it would be possible to work part-time and use the 'free time' to make things from scratch that save almost (and sometimes more) money than if that time was spent on 'outside work'.

To do this we would have to continually 'make to save', and although this sounds daunting, this thought has inspired me to start yet another challenge and DELIBERATELY 'make a saving a day' (or maybe more than one). Unlikely to save enough to equal a wage earned, but surely enough to make it worth thinking about.
I've already started with the chicken. Today I will be cooking that gammon and also got some orange peel soaking (picture below)that will be made into candied peel.

I've saved two orange pips and one avocado stone from yesterday, and today these will also be planted to grow into 'free' house plants that will be given as gifts. Will also be potting up five of those 'herb seed mats' this week. In fact to make quite sure I don't fall by the wayside, am now jotting down in my diary 'things to be done' each day for the rest of this week. Only one small thing need be done each day (it doesn't take long to push two seeds into a pot of soil does it, so may end up doing a lot more than one, maybe six?) and although much of what will be doing I'd have been doing anyway (making more marmalade for instance), at least these can now be counted as part of this 'challenge'.

Am hoping I can inspire readers to also try this approach. It's a particularly easy challenge as it really doesn't matter what we do to make that saving, for we all have complete freedom of choice (dare say I can count not having Norma come to do my hair this week will count as a 'deliberate' saving, and no work for me to do at all to achieve this). All I ask is that we should try to make at least one 'deliberate saving' a week, and - if at all possible - one a day. We may not always need to save only those few pennies (but these all add up), but what we will gain is that sense of achievement that is sadly lacking in many lives today, all because we are all too often encouraged by others to sit back while they do it for us (and how much THAT costs us when we do!).

One comment sent in by sue15cat, and this really cheered me up because I was feeling a bit low (so thanks Sue), as was beginning to feel my 'shelf-life of usefulness' was about over. It was good to know that my blog does sometimes offer inspiration and knowing this helps me to continue with my quest to find new ways to beat this recession. Often believe most of the time I'm teaching my grandmother to suck eggs (as the saying goes), who knows? But I'll keep plodding on.

So from now on each day will (hopefully) make a useful saving worth writing about (maybe even showing a photo). I'm not too concerned about the amount of money saved, only that the end product would be cheaper than if bought over the counter. The time it takes to do each will also be noted as we don't always have to slave away over a hot stove for hours to end up with a minimal saving.

For those wishing to 'save alonga Shirley', then please do get a diary (or note-book) and write down your choice of 'things to do today' and tomorrow and the rest of the week so that you have a reminder. Otherwise (like me) if you plan to do something without necessarily 'needing to', you (like me) will probably put it off until another day. This then could (like me) be another YEAR before it is done. Or maybe never. Writing a list makes it so much easier to work our way through it and forget nothing. That way seeds will be sown when they should be, chickens jointed when whole fresh chickens are on offer. Gammons cooked also when on offer, one batch of marmalade made to last a year.... and so on and so forth.

With drought conditions in many parts of this country at a dangerous level (fortunately not here in the north-west), it is sensible for us to grow as much as we can in small pots rather than in larger garden plots. This makes for ease of watering where we can use less water than if watering large plots, and we can use 'waste' water we have around the house (keep a bucket in the shower to catch as much water as you can). Outdoors we should mulch the ground around the plants to also keep the soil from drying out after watering. Drought can mean a shortage of fresh produce towards the end of this year (and the following winter) and this will mean a rise in price of what has been grown. So we need to bear this in mind and grow as much as we can ourselves.

Just one recipe today (more a method), this based on the chicken scraps (from a carcase) and ham scraps (when slicing a home-cooked gammon). Almost certainly will have given this before, but as I've now got chicken scraps and tomorrow will have ham scraps this makes it (at least for me) an appropriate 'saving ' for me to make. So keep this in mind for when the time is right for you.

This is similar to Shippam's meat pastes, and although not comparatively priced I KNOW would cost me a great deal if the same amount would be is bought in those small glass jars. Home-made - using the 'free' scraps - needs only butter and seasoning provided. Definitely a 'deliberate saving' that will be written down 'to be done' in my diary.

Cheese and Ham Paste: mix together 4 oz (100g) each of minced cooked chicken and ham with 4 oz (100g) softened butter. Add salt, pepper and a grind of nutmeg to taste. Pot up into small containers and cover surface with a layer of melted butter to seal. Store in the fridge for up to a week or can be frozen. Use for sandwiches or canapes etc.

Still early (just after 9.00) but am raring to go to see what savings I can make today, so will take my leave of you. Tomorrow you will find out if I've had any successes, so hope you will join me then. It would be good to hear from those of you who wish to join in this challenge with me, and you let us know what your favourite 'deliberate savings' are. TTFN.