Sunday, March 11, 2012

The 'Weighting' Game...

Yesterday was very interesting. Quite a few discoveries made re my grocery order (and with my cooking), the major ones being to do with weights/size of products bought.

Firstly, the four chickens ordered ended up as three(they apologised for not sending the fourth, they had run out of that particular range). Not too bothered as it proved that the three that did arrive were each several grams more than the weight on their labels, and my 'three' were equally as good (by weight) and probably better than the '3 for £10' offer that I nearly took u p, but then having decided to buy the 'Value' chickens singly together these cost me a few pence over £9. So a saving there of nearly a £1 because I didn't fall for the offer.

Another thing I discovered when ordering ground almonds was that the 200g pack was more expensive than if I bought 2 x 100g packs. So buy buying the smaller packs also saved a few more pennies. We always expect that a larger pack can work out cheaper (by weight) than smaller ones. Sometimes this does happen, but never expect it will, always check first.

Made a mistake when ordering the gammon as I wanted smoked, but they had sent unsmoked (probably I ticked the wrong box). Doesn't really matter. What was good is that each weighed heavier than the weights on the label. These were on offer (and why I bought two), and should have been £7 each but were '2 for £10'. They both are quite large so this week will be cooking one and (again) working out how much has been saved compared to buying packs of ready-sliced cooked ham. The second gammon will be frozen uncooked.

The one thing about buying prepacked fresh chickens, gammon, etc is that is is almost impossible for them to be exactly the same weight, and as it is illegal to sell below a marked weight, then the customer usually ends up with slightly more.
Several times, when I used to buy fresh chickens in store (where they were sold at a set price for all at that 'size'), would pick one up with one hand and hold another in the other hand and see if I could judge if there was a difference in weight or not, and so would always buy the one (or more that seemed the heaviest.

Even with fresh produce sold by the unit (not by weight), we can get more for our money when we ignore their size and go for the ones that are the most 'solid'. For instance an iceberg lettuce could look quite large, but picked up it has little 'density'. This is because the leaves are loose and a lot of air trapped between leaves can make the produce look large. We can't eat air, so why pay for it? If there are scales around, then weigh your lettuce/cabbage/cauliflower/celery and buy the heaviest. In this instance size doesn't matter. Weight does.

Having bought a number of oranges yesterday (some loose, some in nets) noticed that some are cheaper than others for reason of (mainly) size, yet after peeling a large orange discovered that the fruit itself (sans peel) was the same size as one of the smaller oranges that had a much thinner skin. Buying citrus fruit with thinner skins means we can still end up with the same amount of flesh at the more expensive, but at half the price.

Have yet to sample the vacuum beetroot bought, but as this time bought a 'Value' pack (500g) for 44p, and another (250g pack) for 56p (which works out at over £1 for 500g) felt I need to check out the difference. Why one works out cheaper than another remains to be seen. Could be I've found yet another good 'bargain'.

Bought four tins of Tesco's Tuna in brine as these are very much cheaper than even the 'offer' price of four tins of a branded tuna. Have had them before and they seem just as good as the more expensive, at least for my purposes.
The Branston Baked Beans were on offer (last time the offer was with Heinz), and seemed particularly good value (a pack of 4 cans for £1.27). The cheapest own-brand beans are dearer than this particular offer per can, so I bought two packs of the Branston. My favourite brand in fact although these days tend to buy baked beans more by price than brand.

The bogof of baking potatoes turned out to be a good purchase as they were King Edwards, 10 very large and evenly sized ones in one pack, 11 in the other. They worked out as cheap (per potato) as those bought in Morrisons recently when on offer (and even cheaper than an Aldi offer). Not only that they were also larger (so even more for my money). Didn't check the weight, but then when it comes to 'jacket' spuds, this time size does matter.
The 3-pack offer of mixed bell peppers also a good buy, unfortunately no yellow ones included, but did get two red and only one green in each pack. Large ones as well.

Bought 8 packs of Lurpak for B as especially good price (£1 a pack instead of £1.60). Also needed to buy myself some more Flora pro-activ as my 'bad' cholesterol is a bit higher than the diabetic nurse wishes, and pro-activ is supposed to lower it. This Flora is very expensive (£3.78 for a 500g tub) which makes it dearer than full-priced butter (this alone is making me feel guilty spending more on me than on B for my 'spread'). If my cholesterol hasn't gone down will certainly go back to eating butter again (it tastes better although the Flora 'buttery' pro-activ is pleasant enough).
Did buy a couple of packs of lard as I intend having another go at making my own pastry (instead of buying it ready-made) and at 39p a 250g pack it is a really inexpensive fat to use both for cooking and frying. There are many 'baking' recipes that use lard. A friend of mine always said it made much better bread (than if adding butter), and there is a traditional 'Lardy Cake' that (obviously) is made with lard instead of butter or marg.
Lard is used to make hot water crust pastry when making pork pies, and also for short-crust pastry (with this use all lard or half lard and half butter).

The combined cheese, gammon, 'selected' veg, Lurpak, Laundry tablets, cleaners and fruits together gave me 'promotional savings' of £21.75p, plus a 40p refund for 'price match', and a £9 money-off voucher (this had to be used by the end of last week or time had run out) so again feel that I came out on top with my order. My 'big orders' seem to cost less and less because of all these 'offers and money-vouchers' and I now end up with a lot more for my money than used to happen. Not bad in these days of recession and continually rising food prices. Just shows how desperate the stores are to keep our custom.

On the other hand, with our freezer and fridge (not to mention larder shelves) now back to over-flowing, looks like it could be another couple or so months (or maybe even longer) before my next order, as all I need to do during that time is just 'top up' with milk, eggs etc when needed.
Hopefully will then begin to shop 'in store' instead of 'on-line', starting with Aldi, just to see if this (and later other stores) really do work out as the best economical route to take.

Regarding yesterdays 'cooking'. Didn't do much due to the order arriving and it all having to be put away (something I love doing, but slowly - B couldn't help as he was watching a footie match). Thankfully there was only one frozen food (prawns for B's stir-fries), so that was put away first, the 'chilled' (cream/milk etc) second, the other stuff done gradually. Tins and packets put on the kitchen table and put away later.

Fortunately I'd got the fruit pie in the oven before the order arrived, this being a large Apple and Blackberry. With the pastry scraps left, rolled these out into a very rough oblong and sprinkled over several tablespoons of Parmesan cheese. Pressed this into the pastry by rolling it in with the rolling pin (some stuck to the pin but easily brushed off back onto the pastry, then rolled up the pastry tightly to make a long sausage.
Sliced the 'sausage' and then laid the circles flat and again pressed them lightly with the rolling pin to make them thinner and larger. Placed them on a baking sheet and baked at 180C for about 7 minutes (until golden). They made really good nibbles, that were much more interesting to look at than plain 'cheese straws', but whether it is my taste buds going or what, never do find that Parmesan has much flavour. Next time will spread surplus rolled pastry with Marmite, or grate on some salt and pepper before adding cheese (and probably normal hard cheese instead of the Parmesan), or maybe even with a little pesto.

The pie itself began to be eaten by B after his supper of smoked mackerel and salad. He praised the pie (this means a lot for he doesn't often praise his meals), and said it had a lovely flavour. I said "what's so special about the flavour of apple and blackberry" and he said it didn't taste like blackberry, it was more like raspberry. Probably that WAS the fruit I used as I found a tub of dark berries in the freezer when trying to find room for something else, so decided to use these in the pie. They looked like blackberries but probably were the rather dark berries I picked last year from our autumn fruiting raspberries.
The apples used were Bramleys, and to capture some of the juice sprinkled ground almonds over the base of the pastry before adding the fruit, also added sugar.
B liked the pie so much (eaten with cream of course) that he helped himself to more later, and this morning found there is only half the pie left (the tin it was cooked in measured 12" dia!). But always good to know when something I make is enjoyed that much.

No trade mag this weekend, due to B having cancelled the order (by my request) and I'm missing reading 'what's new'. But by cancelling the mag am now better off by £2.50 a week. This week have also cancelled my hair, so even more money saved. These 'savings' will be spent at a garden centre during this week in the aim that by spending some (or all( of this, what will then be sown (or planted) to grow in our garden will be worth a lot more than the money they cost. We may have to wait for our crops to mature, but the end 'weight' will always be worth it.

Today the plan is to cook one gammon, then leave it in the fridge overnight to chill before slicing (this may be done the following day or a couple of days later but will let you know the savings made when I get the final weight).
Also the chickens will be jointed today, weighed and comparison costings made against supermarket prepacks of the various joints. The carcases will be made into stock. Have now to rearrange the fridge to find room for the bowls of stock to 'gel' overnight (then can remove the fat from the surface and use this for frying). Then tomorrow reboil the stock to reduce and pack up into small containers to freeze. Also have to sort the freezer out to find room for both stock and individually packed chicken joints. Could be a busy day or two.

Thanks for comments. Think 'macarons' are perhaps the French spelling for what we call 'macaroons' MimSys (or maybe I've got it wrong), However am intending to make some of these 'biscuits' later this week so will discover if they are easy (or hard) to make. Am pretty sure I've made them in the past without any difficulty, but then they were just 'ordinary', not the pretty coloured ones that are on sale today. Will photograph my attempts and give any hints and tips that I discover as I make them. So keep watching this space.

Below is a photo of the high tide at Sunderland Point. Not that you can see much but water and of interest only to readers familiar with this area. The 'land' on the horizon is Sunderland Point itself, the foreground shows the road disappearing under the high tide. By the triangular sign you can see the posts on the left (matching the one at the sea edge) that mark the side of the causeway, the furthest ones having disappeared under the sea, and B reckons the water would be almost neck height at the lowest part of the road.
In B's tidal book it gives high tide as 15ft on that day, but as there was quite a strong wind B says it would almost certainly be higher. It was good to see the waves reaching as high as the prom wall and throwing up spry as we drove past on our return. This rarely happens, and it wasn't even blowing a gale. If it had been the sea spray would probably have been thrown up over the prom walkway and onto the main road. This has happened once since we moved here only I stayed indoors and seeing missed it. Bother!

That's it for today as Gill will be phoning shortly, immediately after that it is in the kitchen, put the gammon in the pot to simmer, and start jointing those chickens. Beloved will be having the first of his 'birthday steaks' for his supper, not sure yet whether with chips, baby new potatoes and cooked veg, or with salad. His choice. He will probably finish off the last of the fruit pie.

By the way, had a letter from the hospital yesterday from the diabetic screening department. They said it could be 6 weeks before I heard from them, so I was a bit scared they had found a problem that needed instant attention. But it was good news, the check had shown there was nothing wrong with my eyes. Just need the usual annual check from now on to make sure.

Please remember that tomorrow there will be no blog (due to other commitments), but be assured that for the rest of the week I should be here with my usual 'rambles', and hopefully will have a few more photos to show you and also be able to prove that by 'doing it ourselves' - when it comes to weights - we can end up quids in.
Already looking forward to Tuesday for our usual 'get-together'. Hope to see you then.