Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Costs Less Than You Expect

Had to wait until after Norma left this morning due to late rising, but it has given me the chance to 'have a read' whilst under the hair-dryer, and answer some (possible) queries.
Firstly let me give my replies to the two comments sent..

Certainly in the UK we would never be served the breakfasts you mentioned Lisa. I shudder at the thought of being served anything frozen at that time of day.
It is true that in hotels and some B & B we get a choice. Probably able to choose from cereals laid out on a side-board, or from a selection of yogurts (doubt anyone eats both). plus a glass of fruit juice (usually orange or pineapple). If we want 'something hot', we can choose either porridge, or kippers, or eggs, boiled or on toast (scrambled or poached). The 'full English' is nearly always offered and this consists of bacon, sausages, fried egg, baked beans, fried tomatoes and mushrooms, a slice of Black Pudding. Maybe even a triangle of fried bread. Many people stick to just a couple of rashers of bacon, sausage, eggs and beans, but if we choose the full range, then the bacon and sausage are usually reduced to one rasher, one sausage, given less beans, half a tomato and probably one mushroom (otherwise it wouldn't all fit on the plate).
Toast is always served at breakfast, along with butter and either jam or marmalade, but despite the wide choice, we normally choose to have a 'light' breakfast. In the UK it is often just a bowl of cereal followed by toast and marmalade, then tea or coffee. The 'full English' is usually chosen if we wish to eat nothing more until supper time.
Sometimes seasonal fresh fruit is offered at the breakfast table, and sometimes croissants, and at home it is not unknown for 'yuppies' to breakfast on only a couple of crispbreads and a drink a of orange juice before leaving for work.

Am pleased you liked the recipes I've recently been suggesting Jane. You wonder where I get the inspiration. As you know there are very few 'new' recipes, everything is just a version of another, and what I have been doing lately is to find suitable recipes that can be adapted to fit in to a 'shoestring budget'.

The problem (if it is a problem) is that many cooks read a recipe, feel they would like to try it (probably that day), then follow the instructions accurately, maybe even going out to buy a missing ingredient. Myself tend to pay much closer attention to each recipe, then make adaptations to suit what I have, and end up with much the same thing - but cheaper.

In the latest copy of a cookery mag they offer "A Week of Our Meals For Four - for under £25! Anything that gives a costing gets my immediate attention.
Then I see that this is only 'weekday' meals, so five meals instead of the seven I expected. Also knowing that show how to feed a family of four for the same money and that INCLUDES all meals (breakfast, lunch, supper, snacks etc), felt the magazine's idea of 'thrifty' meals was not mine.

The five dishes - with their costs, are shown (in pics) on one page (the recipes given in other parts of the mag). So gleefully decided to see how the dishes were made and see if I could cut their costs without losing any of the nutrition.
Generally I would aim that a serving of any dish made by me should not need to cost more than £1 per portion (hopefully a lot less). Obviously some that I make for B does cost more, but another meal on another day would cost less. The best way to 'budget' is to average out the cost of a meal over a week/month.
Having said that I don't now normally work out the cost of the meals that I make for myself and B. Just as long as I don't spend more than my 'food budget' that I've set myself for the month, then just make meals that I feel like making. As you know, with plenty of meat/fish in the freezer, and loads in the larder (all paid for by money saved during my 'challenges') then there is never a problem of 'can't make as I don't have'...

Here are the five meals as shown in the mag, with their given (total) cost to serve 4:
Mustard Chicken with Beetroot Salad: £4.60
Paneer with Broccoli: £3.56
Steak and Blue Cheese Bruschetta: £6.72 (!!)
Italian-Style Chicken Burger: £5.64
Spaghetti with Tomato, Chilli and Tuna: £3.
Total: £23.52 (does not include 'sides' such as salads...)

If deciding to cook any (or all) of these, would first look at the list of ingredients. What is very noticeable in publications today is that everything is now in metric weights, so we are 'told' to buy 500g of (say) meat, when in 'the old days' a similar recipe would have said 1 lb. Because of this we now buy an extra 2 oz that we don't need. With my recipes I would suggest 450g and NOT 500g. The same goes for anything sold in metric weights, when following recipe directions we now always use that little bit more (pasta, rice etc) than we really need - and this all adds up, cost-wise.

Indeed we don't always need as much meat as the recipe suggests, more often than not I reduce the 500g down to 14oz (400g) or even less, this again making a saving. We should remember that a 'portion/serving' is the total weight of all ingredients (when put together), so by cutting down on one, we should replace the missing weight with a cheaper product or we could end up feeling slightly deprived.

If we take advantage of any odds and ends of veggies we wish to use up, these can often take the place of others suggested in a recipe, and anything - when bought 'on offer, will work out cheaper than the given recipe cost (as they work on rsp).
Here is an instance. The recipe using spaghetti and tuna, inexpensive though it may be, can be a lot cheaper if an own-brand can of tuna is used. I went into the larder to check the weight of a can of Tesco's Value tuna chunks, and also the weight of a Princes Tuna chunks (bought on offer but still far more expensive than the Value tuna).
In the recipe it said "1 x 190g tuna in brine", this being the weight of the can. My two cans both weighed 185g (almost the same as the recipe), the drained weight being less of course.

Using 'value' spaghetti and 'value' tuna - these being much cheaper than the 'normal' and 500g (1lb 2 oz) of 'fresh' tomatoes (finely chopped) in the recipe also replaced by a 'value' can of chopped tomatoes, it doesn't take much thought to work out that with canny shopping we can
easily reduce the given cost of this dish considerably.
And this is what I do. Read through the ingredient list of every recipe, then when I find one that can be adapted to cost less, AND also use any left-overs or those chicken scraps from a carcase, then this I feel will be of most interest to you.

Nearly every recipe on this site will always be cheaper to make than expected. If the ingredients are shown as 'original', then cheaper alternatives or substitutions will be suggested. We have also to remember that many (such as salads, herbs...) we can eventually grow ourselves, and over time we have got to the stage where we can reduce the cost of the meal of almost any given recipe, but just giving it more thought.

Those who live by the sea might even be able to catch fresh fish for their supper!! Must really try this sometime (as long as someone puts the worms on the hook for me, takes the fish from the hook and kills it, then de-scales, and removes guts and head for me... might as well let them cook it as well. But at least it is 'free').

Managed to watch the whole of Hairy Biker's Bakeation yesterday evening. Don't know why, but firmly believe that Dave had a blonde Dutch wife and he also had children. Obviously not! Or perhaps in another life (or another wife?). Am thoroughly enjoying the series, and how it proves how lacking we are when it comes to the variety of bread sold in our shops in the UK. We used to host German students who came to stay with us for a fortnight each year, and they absolutely HATED our soft, sliced supermarket bread. Often refused to eat it. I bought the more 'artisan' brown and granary bread (much more expensive) which they would eat, but to them it was not nearly as good as the bread sold in Germany. After watching the programme can understand why.

Due to the late start will finish for today, then hopefully back on track again tomorrow. Final word about our weather. We have had 6" snow in Scotland and here in the north-west it is bitterly cold, but as yet no snow. Winds blowing a gale through the night, but these seem to have died down a bit.
Although only planted a week ago the courgette seeds have sprouted. Think I've planted them too early, but possibly - once potted up - can keep them in the conservatory until the warmer weather. Just about all the seeds have sprouted. Must take a photo of them this weekend or they'll be fully grown and eaten before I remember to keep a record.

Today am having to refill my flour bin with pre-weighed bags of flour, the same with the 'sugar bin'. Also need to make up packs of soft marg also ready for baking. It really is worth taking time to do this, for it makes baking so easy when most of the job is already done.

B was out most of yesterday, so had lunch elsewhere. This meant he only wanted a light supper, and this he was able to get for himself (scrambled eggs on toast), plus numerous other 'snacks' he kept fetching throughout the evening. No wonder he is struggling to lose weight.
But - having said that - my own 'struggle' is almost a puzzle as yesterday was fed up that despite my not really eating very much during the day, my weight either went up a lb (or two) or stayed as it was. This led to me yesterday 'eating for comfort', and gorging myself. Yet, this morning found my weight had gone down 4 lbs since yesterday!
Possibly I had not been eating enough, and this 'extra intake' had given the boost to my metabolism. This has happened before. The danger is believing that 'more means less' when it comes to weight, and if I ate a lot over several days, then my weight will bounce back up again. So today have to be cautious again. At least good to know I can have a 'blow-out' now and again without it doing me much harm,

Until tomorrow, when I hope to meet up with you all again. Enjoy your day.