Saturday, March 10, 2012

Way to Go...

Costing and Cooking. Which of the two is most important? Obviously we save money when we work out the cost of ingredients, save even more money when we make meals from scratch, but sometimes it can work out more expensive to home-cook than if we bought something over the counter. Here I am thinking about SOME convenience mixes and sauces, and possibly some canned products.
Even now we are able to buy loaves of bread at rock-bottom prices (loss-leaders) that are considerably cheaper than making the bread ourselves, but are these worth it? There is really no point in buying poor quality/flavour bread if we don't enjoy what we eat. On the other hand cheap bread does make good breadcrumbs (fresh or dried) to use as a coating or when making a stuffing/bread sauce. Or slices could be used for lining the basins when making Summer Puddings, and they even make quite a decent Bread and Butter pudding. So it all depends!

A pack of 'three cheese' sauce mix (only when on offer) works out cheaper than if making the same thing from scratch as I've found these taste really 'cheesy' and I'd have to use quite a lot of bought well-flavoured (and expensive) cheese to get the same effect, although do scatter a little freshly grated (basic cheap hard) cheese on top when making cauliflower cheese et al just because my B likes the top crusty and bubbling. Yet a white cheese sauce mix works out much more expensive compared to the home-made.

True I do keep Bisto cheese granules, Bisto parsley sauce granules, and Bisto Best beef granules in my larder, and this purely because I am lazy. I COULD make these sauces and gravy from scratch, but then as they are only the icing on the cake so to speak, and the rest of the meal is made from fresh and quality produce, then why not save time when I can? At least I KNOW that when making a meal from start to finish (and this might include baking bread and using the crumbs from the loaf), this would save me even more money, and will always do this when the budget calls for money-belt tightening. Otherwise I keep my 'mean cuisine' approach to the extent of using only part of a pack of casserole 'mix' or sauce 'mix' just to give me the flavour I wish (why use all a pack when only part will suffice?). Part-used packs are folded tightly and stored in lidded glass jars for future use.

So while we should always keep an eye on how much we spend, giving our shopping list a tweak now and again - so we always keep within our budget - with so many foods on offer at the moment (so take advantage while we can) we should still be able to bring home even more food than previously (when sold at full price) and these can be stored for leaner times.
With a bit of thought most (fresh) foods can be 'stretched' to make them go further, last longer, and over time those who shop once a week will find they will only need to shop once every ten days, then maybe once a fortnight, still spending no more at any one time than on the weekly shop. Those (like myself) who shop monthly can find they can often last out for a couple or three months without needing to do a 'proper shop' (just topping up with milk and eggs maybe once or twice during that time). It's all to do with what we buy.

I've said all this before, and so why do I keep repeating myself? Maybe it's a touch of guilt, with my freezer now packed full of meat/fish (enough to last a year if caution is applied and a few veggie meals served now and again). Today have to admit I am expecting another Tesco order as it is (nearly) a month since I last ordered and I wished to take advantage of the very good offers (large gammon cheaper if I bought 2, Lurpack £2.00 for 2 instead of £1.60p EACH). Plus four chickens that worked out cheaper if bought singly than if bought as a "3 for £10"(plus one).
The packs of baking potatoes were bogofs, also packs of bell peppers, so bought these too (as had run out of each). Also bought more cheese (half-price). The usual milk and the tray of 15 eggs (8p each) were ordered, plus a big bag of caster sugar that was considerably cheaper (per 100g) than if I'd bought it in the smaller bags (and I use a lot of caster sugar when baking).

Cashew nuts were also on offer (useful for adding to stir fries so bought two packs, one will be kept in the freezer as this gives nuts a much longer 'shelf-life'). Oh yes, also ordered baked beans (on offer) - as never seem to have enough of these.
Did need sardines, but strangely this month only those in brine were at the low price I normally pay. The ones in oil (that B prefers) were not listed. But still have half a dozen cans on the larder shelf so these will keep B in 'snacks' for some time. Whether this means the price of sardines will shortly be increasing (again) or whether they are then next to go 'on offer' remains to be seen.

Likewise they had none of the lamb shanks (at 2 for £5 - exceptionally good value) that I normally buy. With the price of lamb rising fast thought I'd better stock up with a couple of packs (then find room in the freezer to store them), and this also seems as though when they return to the store's freezer cabinet they will be much more expensive. But again - still have two (or is it three?) single shanks left from previous purchases. B used to have one a week, now he'll have to make do with rump steak or rack of lamb (part of his birthday present). What a disappointment for him!

The chickens ordered will be jointed at home, each piece wrapped individually before being frozen (although I may roast one chicken whole - not yet decided), the fillets from the back of the breasts will be packed in packs (some for B's stir-fries). All will be weighed and prices compared to similar joints sold ready-packed. Having four carcases will make oodles of stock (having just about run out of home-made chicken stock this IS a necessity as I use it often).

It may seem excessive the amount I buy at any one time, and if I was a 'normal' person I probably wouldn't buy nearly as much, but to me it is important to be able - through my 'cookery blog' - to prove how much cheaper certain things can be if bought in a different way (whole chickens instead of joints etc), and also how much further they can be made to go. In any case I am still not spending any more on food than I have done for years, even though I do seem to end, and in a way this is proof postive that the way to go (and still eat well during this recession) is to shop with care and thought.
It isn't as though any food that comes into our home is being wasted (I don't do waste), the 'fresh' foods are bought only in the quantity that will keep without going 'off'. At this time of year thankfully we are still using the root veg and these DO keep well for weeks in the fridge.

Returning to the recent 'topic' where I showed a shopping list of ingredients needed to make meals for a week. The cost (as worked out by Lisa) seems very expensive. Yet at just over £70for the week this breaks down to £10 a day to feed four, although this doesn't include breakfast and some lunches/snacks/drinks.... Breaking the costing down even further that is only £2.50 a day per person (say £3 if including the rest of the day's eats and drinks).

Even £3 seems little to spend on food (per head) for a full day's meals, especially when many are happy enough to trot off to work and spend £3 on buying a sarnie and a can of pop to take to work for lunch. Perhaps £70 sounds about right. Yet I KNOW that many people have far less to spend to feed their family for one week, so we should never believe that we need to spend as much as some TV programmes and cookery mags lead us to believe.
One thing I HAVE found (by trial and experience) is that is we can spend a lot less but still end up with enough if we buy food to last a month in one go in rather than make a menu for a week and buy the ingredients for that. of shopping by the week. Perhaps it is the fact that a large pack of (say) vegetables can works our cheaper than a small one (but not always, so we need to check whether we should buy loose or pre-packed), and a large (value or grade 2) pack of (say) carrots or onions can last several weeks longer than one month (so we don't need to buy them again next time).
I could go on, but too much info can cause confusion, so will end this bit of 'rambling' by saying 'you get my drift'.

Today's recipes begin with one for biscuits that is fairly adaptable in that we could use a different (and cheaper sugar), or different dried fruits according to what we have (if we have only mixed dried fruit then use 4 oz (100g) - the total weight of fruit as given). But even then we can use less if we wish.
If - like me - you find that home-made biscuits are eaten all too rapidly by the family (well, they are gorgeous), it is especially useful to be able to bake a few at a time rather than a whole batch in one go, so this particular recipe is good in that the dough will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks (slice off only what you need at the time and bake when the oven is on for something else), and can also be frozen (although will need thawing before slicing).
The size of the biscuits is given, but again we don't have to stick to this, we can make them smaller (so make more), but maybe then need to allow a little less time for them to bake. There is no set-in-stone rule that says biscuits need to be round. The dough could be rolled out and the biscuits cut into fingers or squares. You're the cook, make them what shape you like.

Quick Fix Biscuits: makes 18
12 oz (350g) self-raising flour, sifted
7 oz (200g) butter, softened
6 oz (175g) light muscovado sugar (see above)
half tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
2 oz (50g) chopped dates, no-soak apricots, or prunes
1 oz (25g) raisins or sultanas (or mixed dried fruit)
1 oz (25g) dried blueberries, cranberries, or cherries
Cream together the butter and sugar with the vanilla, and then when light and fluffy, beat in the egg. Fold in the flour and when combined, mix in the fruits.
Form into 'sausages', approx 4 cm (not quite 2") in diameter, then wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge to firm up (this can be kept chilled for up to a fortnight).
When wishing to cook, slice the 'sausage' thinly, approx 1 cm thick (whatever that is in inches), and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 10 - 15 minutes, then remove from oven and leave on the baking sheet to cool for 10 minutes and finish off on a cake airer. Store in an air-tight container.

At the moment our weather forecast is looking good. Next week we expect to have high pressure centred over the UK bringing much milder and settled weather. Possibly leading us away from winter fare and more into eating cooler meals.
However we could get one more cold spell (or maybe two or three) before that hot 'summer' we expect to have at the end of April (well we have had a heatwave then for the last six or so years - or is it ten. Why should this year be different?). Then with Easter being early April, this is something we will be able to look forward to and cook for. Don't forget Mothering Sunday in a couple of weeks.

Whether it is a cold or even cool summer day, this recipe for 'hot' soup will undoubtedly be enjoyed. True it may have ingredients that some of us don't normally keep, but am sure some of you do, so worth giving, if only as a thought to the future when you MIGHT have the necessary.
A Taste of the Caribbean - soup: serves 4
2 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
2 onions, chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
3 ribs celery plus leaves, chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
9 oz (250g) chopped (canned) tomatoes
8 fl oz (225ml) coconut milk
1 pint vegetable stock
3 bay leaves
9 oz (250g) cooked black eyed beans
2 tblsp Hot Pepper Sauce (or to taste)
Put the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion, carrot, celery and thyme until softened.
Add the sweet potato, chopped tomatoes, coconut milk, stock and bay leaves. Bring to the boil then reduce heat to low, simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often. Remove bay leaves, add the beans and pepper sauce. Cook for 10 more minutes and then serve.

Have just remembered that today is Saturday, Beloved is wanting to watch a footie match on TV this afternoon, also my Tesco order will be delivered and as I'd already planned to have a day baking, think it is now time for me to get on and do what I can before I get disturbed.
Suffice to say that yesterday Beloved cooked his own stir-fry for his supper all by himself (although I did prepare and plate up the veggies and meat ready for him to cook, and put the sachets of sauce and noodles by the side - with a pair of scissors to open the packs). My only cooking was baking another loaf of bread.
The plan is B now will cook himself a stir-fry once a week, but no doubt after a month he will have got fed up with doing so. Until then I will have at least one day a week where I can put my feet up and ignore his hunger pangs.

Pleased that you found the Donald Russell meats so good Chrissie. These offers make a good gift for those with freezers who like to cook good meals. D.R. also do an offer with an assortment of 'ready-meals' that are a mite expensive but certainly better than any sold at a supermarket, and again these make a good gift for someone who maybe lives alone and not always wishing to cook themselves a meal from scratch.

We do have a lot of regional accents in this country, also different names for the same thing according to which county we are in. It was interesting how the Cambridge accent is so similar to the London one (as commented by Sairy). Even more interesting to know how much further abroad we still hear the same English voices/accents. In the US , in some parts of New England they speak the same as those in our our south-west (the accents around Bristol and further south) perhaps because the Pilgrim Fathers spoke the same way. Also in America there are a lot of American voices that sound identical to those in parts of Ireland.

In Australia in some areas they speak as we hear in certain parts of London. In other parts of Australia they speak 'pure English' with no 'Ozzie' accent at all. Perhaps in Canada they have a tendency to speak with a slightly Scottish twang due to the Scottish settlers there. Obviously many speak French for the same reason (but usually the language rather than the accent I presume).
In parts of South America there are people who speak with a strong Welsh accent, even though it is generations since their ancestors settled there, and in our own country we too have many words, sayings and 'accent's that have stayed with us since the Viking invasion some thousand or so years ago.

As to the name of that campsite you gave Campfire, I have never heard of it, but will try and find out why it was so called and report back.
I took a photo of the high tide yesterday at Sunderland Point, but forgot to put it up on this site and wlll try to remember to do so tomorrow. This may be of interest to you and also gillibob.
Another day must take a shot of the same area at low tide then others can understand why this high tide is so 'special' in this particular area.

Today has begun with blue skies and sun, more spring blossom is appearing in the garden, and it does seem that winter is now putting itself back to its own hibernation. Next week am hoping to be able to have a scoot or two with Norris as we haven't been out for seemingly months. It is only when there is no wind and the weather is warm that I dare brave the promenade walk. Otherwise have to stay in a protected area such as side streets and they are not really worth exploring. Maybe if I went further afield.

Time moves relentlessly on so will have to depart. Gill phones tomorrow at 9.00am prompt so must try and write my blog - then publish - before this, otherwise half the morning is gone before I leave this seat.
In case I forget - there will be no blog this coming Monday due to me having an appointment early in the morning, but will try and remember to remind you when I 'speak' with you all tomorrow. See you then.