Saturday, April 07, 2012

One Step Back, Two Steps Forward

The cost of food seems to rise faster than we can keep up with, and it could get a lot worse if our drought conditions means that farmers cannot grow their produce. Any they do grow will be very highly priced.
Then I read that hundreds (or was it thousands?) of lambs have perished in the fields during this unexpcted snowfall. Less lambs means less meat - so even higher prices on top of the known increase in the price of lamb.

If we take one stop back and follow 'old ideas' to make food go further, at the same time we are taking two strides forward as this can only improve our health (eating slightly less of the 'bad' stuff), and this keeping those £££s safely tucked away in our purse.

We should also start chatting to our butcher, see what he can suggest as an alternative (and cheaper) cut of meat. He doesn't mind what we buy, as long as we buy SOMETHING, and even though fillet steak is classed as too expensive 'for the likes of us', fillet 'tails' are cheaper (because of their triangular shape), and a little of this, cut into strips will go a long way in a strogonoff. A recipe for this (including other money-saving tips) is given today.
I buy one pack of fillet tails (my butcher usually sells them vacuum packed), then remove from the pack and cut up into strips, these then packed into 3 - 4 small bags, as much air squeezed out as possible, the bags sealed and then frozen. Each is enough to make a stir-fry, strogonoff etc. whereas 'in the piece' it would barely be enough to serve one.

Thanks for letting us know the price of a small container of 'growing salad leaves' (99p) Lynne. As you say, your 49p pack of seeds should grow several of these. And speedily enough at this time of year, especially if sited on a sunny windowsill. Below I'm showing the salad leaves sown as they were just under a week after sowing, and the next pic was taken this morning. You can see how much they have grown in less than two weeks after that first photo was taken.

There are several different leaf 'types' in the box, although difficult to see in the photo, and although these could be cut and used now, will let them grow for a further week (or two) until they become large enough to eat as a 'proper' salad.

This weekend another box of salad leaves will be sown, and so it will continue throughout most of the rest of the year so that I have them available all the time. And think how much money THAT will save me (compared to supermarket prices).

While taking the photos, thought you might like to see how fast the three courgette seeds are growing, the other two pots are tomatoes. These seeds were sown about 12 days ago.

Am not sure how many you cater for minimiser deb, and even though your £60 budget is really pretty good in this day and age (even for just two), there are ways of reducing it further if needs be.
Much depends on how we shop. Myself found (in the past and averaging the cost per week) a weekly (or fortnightly) shop worked out far more expensive than when I bought a month's food in one go. Don't know why this should be, but it is so. Once I discovered that now tend to buy food only once a month (with possibly a very occasional 'top up' of eggs).

Possibly my 'bulk buy' gives me the advantage of always being able to stock up on foods that are on 'offer', thus having a supply in the larder/fridge/freezer to fall back on, also taking advantage of the 'basics' when these too are on offer (butter/cheese/eggs/milk etc all keep well for a month - and some often longer, also can be frozen). Myself try to spend no more than £120 on the month's food (though if prices continue to rise this is becoming more and more difficult - a recent order was still within this amount, but I ended up with less food overalll.
This 'budget' of mine does average out to less (per month) over the year, due to my 'use up what I've got' challenges (this means I can miss out a month buying food at least twice a year).

As I said yesterday, am so obsessed with cost-cutting that I take every opportunity to save, and these 'savings' then are spent on more food - such as 'quality meat/fish' when on offer. With all this 'rob Peter to pay Paul' attitude of mine, somehow it works and have to say the Goode meals are not that bad considering the 'pittance' I allow myself.

But then does this really matter? As long as we can still afford to buy the foods we enjoy, then why shouldn't we? It is when the need to cut costs is paramount, THEN we need to review our shopping 'habits' and make certain changes. This doesn't mean we are forced to eat (or even buy) less food. Often we can end up with MORE for our money (the 'buy one get TWO free' with branded cheese comes to mind), and it has to be said, there is so much variety of foods on sale that we are sure to find SOMETHING we like at a price we can still afford.

Loved the sound of your Easter 'baskets' Lisa, and also envy you having asparagus to eat at this time of year. Over here it is an 'expensive' vegetable, and I haven't eaten fresh 'sparrowgrass' for years (although my dad used to grow it). However do keep a can of asparagus in the larder for all parts can be used in cooking (many chefs say the canned asparagus is better for cooking as it is less expensive and the soft stems have loads of flavour).

Not sure whether this would work Catriona, but when I used to sew by hand, always wore a thimble to prevent sore fingers, and sometimes used to tape a small coin over the ball of my thumb to give added protection. Certainly always tape a coin over my thumb when pressing whole cloves into an orange (when making a pomander), as it is very painful if I don't.

Lucky you to be having bookshelves Alison, I keep asking B to build me some, but he can't be bothered. We still have stacks of (my) books in all our rooms that need shelf space. We do have one bookcase where B keeps all his books, but no room left for mine.

Have noticed that in some previous postings, whenever I include photographs, the recipes then are published with spaces between each ingredient. Even some sentences have spacing when they shouldn't have. It looks OK when I type it out, but goes 'wrong' when published, so am aplogising for any 'gaps' that might appear today (due to including photos). I've tried editing, but it doesn't seem to alter it when it is re-published.

A couple of recipes today, the first a variation of Coronation Chicken, and possibly good for serving at a family 'Jubilee' celebration this summer. You could cook raw chicken breasts and use these, but - at ever - my suggestion is use those scraps from the cooked carcase.
Jubilee Chicken: serves 4
1 pint measure cooked chicken 'scraps'
1 - 2 tsp mild curry powder (or paste)
3 tblsp olive oil
2 - 3 tblsp mango chutney
1 lemon
1 cucumber, cut into sticks
1 bag watercress
3 tblsp toasted flaked almonds
Put 1 tblsp oil in a frying pan with the curry powder/paste and cook for a couple of minutes, then remove from heat and leave to cool. Stir in the chicken so it gets coated with the curry oil.
Whisk the remaining oil with the mango chutney and lemon juice and put into the bottom of a salad bowl. Top with the cucumber, watercress and chicken and half the almonds then toss the lot together. Scatter the remaining almonds on top and serve.

Second recipe is my way to extend the meat when making a strogonoff. I've used less meat than the original recipe (you can use even less if you wish) and have made up the shortfall by using more onion and extra mushrooms. Big flat 'field' mushrooms sliced into strips soak up the meat flavours and look very much like meat. Eaten with the meat you wouldn't know the difference. Chestnut mushrooms have a firmer texture and 'meatier' flavour than the basic white 'rooms', so use these if you can - it doesn't matter if they are small -although the large 'chestnuts' called 'portobello' (or similar) cut into strips are best if you want to pretend you are serving lots of meat.
Thrifty Strogonoff: serves 2
1 large onion, sliced
1 oz (25g) butter
1 clove garlic, crushed (opt)
9oz (250g) chestnut mushrooms (see above)
half tsp paprika pepper
1 tblsp sunflower oil
4 oz (100g) fillet steak cut into thin strips
5 fl oz (150ml) beef stock
5 fl oz (150ml) sour cream or yogurt
salt and pepper
1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
Fry the onion in the butter for a few minutes until softened then stir in the garlic and mushrooms and cook over high heat until browned. Stir in the paprika, cook for half a minute then - using a slotted spoon - remove to a bowl and set aside.
Using the same pan, add the oil and beef and stir-fry for a couple or so minutes, then return mushrooms/onions to the pan, add the stock and fast-boil for a few minutes until the liquid as reduced considerably. Stir in the soured cream with seasoning to taste, and finish with chopped parsley. Serve immediately - preferably with tagliatelle (pasta noodles).

Not quite sure yet whether this weekend will be busy, or shall I take it easy? Still plenty more tidying up to do in the kitchen.
The ham cooked beautifully, but has yet to be sampled. It's gone a strange 'cola' colour, but am sure will taste wonderful. It took a full bottle of coca-cola to cover the ham, but none of it seems to have evaporated, so will have to find a place in the freezer to store it (in small containers) to use next time I cook gammon.

It is at this time of the year (and also at Christmas of course) that I wish we were younger with small children, then tomorrow would be the day to hide the Easter Eggs in the garden and let them hunt for them. Happy days! How I miss having youngsters around the place. All our 9 grandchildren are now grown-up and so far none have offspring of their own. Maybe one day I'll be a 'great-grandma'. Let us hope so.

Must stop rambling and get on with the chores that are waiting for me. If I could only get into the routine that everyone used in 'the old days', it may seem to be going back in time, but certainly would pave my way to an easier life today. As I said - one step back, two steps forward. Must try it sometime. Like today! TTFN.