Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Frugal Life

Have to say that it seems that almost every day we hear of more price increases (or shortages, but this also puts up the price).  Seems we are in for a bleak winter with many having to decide whether to 'heat or eat'.  Yet again my mind goes back to the days of early marriage when the only source of heat was one coal fire, and that had to be lit every day in the cold weather.  Yes, we shivered when out of the living room, but garments made of real wool kept us warm.  The man-made fibres today are not nearly so good.

In those days we didn't have duvets (which I have to say are good at keeping us snug), but the cotton sheets covered by one or two (or three) blankets, topped by a quilt (with a hot water bottle tucked in an hour before retiring) and especially if someone could tuck us in as well - this really did make us feel warm and snug.  Not forgetting the hot drink of chocolate, Ovaltine or Horlicks to help us sleep.  Those were the days.

Mind you, we were younger in those days, and thick overcoats and woollen scarves, hats and gloves were the order of the day, also fleece lined ankle boots (all warmed if possible before we left the house), we could cope with freezing weather, standing in bus queues.  Nowadays most people seem to wear light-weight clothes all year round as all they have to do is jump in the car (which has a heater) and then jump out again when the destination is reached. 
Perhaps time for us to go back to some of the tried and tested old ways of keeping warm.

There has to be concern for the older folk (like B and me?) who do seem to feel the cold a lot more (certainly I do), and having to live on just the state pension (like B and me), then the money can only stretch so far.  To keep our home warm we will now have to pay extra, and when the food prices rise due to the bad weather we have had - again we have to pay more.  Where will it end?

B and I were discussing the massive profits the fuel companies make, and I thought the government should 'nationalise' these (gas, electricity, water AND rail) as it used to be in times past.  B said the government could make these companies freeze their prices with no increases until allowed - this apparently is possible.  So why doesn't this happen?

At least 'us cooks' have the benefit of being able to manage on far less money than those who make a habit of buying the 'ready-prepareds' from the supermarkets.   There ought to be a programme on TV showing the difference in price between the home-made and (similar) bought.
A couple of day's ago made a batch of Macaroons using 2 egg whites ('free', as the yolks were used in something else), icing sugar and ground almonds.  The total cost came to 40p, and made 40 macaroon 'halves'.  That was 2p a Macaroon without the filling (which was Nutella at that time and that didn't cost that much).  Yet I've seen Macaroons on sale for ££££s for a small boxful (like half a dozen!).
Same with that Croqembouche made for B's birthday, cost me no more than £5 to make that huge cone of 80 + cream-filled profiteroles, yet would have cost a good £50 if bought.

Problem is these are 'treats' and probably not what one would expect to make when trying to reduce our food budget, but it is the same with most bought 'ready-meals', they almost always cost us five times more than if we had made the same meal from scratch (and we'd have larger portions too).

So perhaps no need to worry too much yet about rising prices, after all there is always something else to eat if what we normally buy proves to be too expensive.  There was a woman on TV yesterday who was finding she saved a lot of money by eating more fruit and veg from a local supplier, and this because she had stopped shopping so often at the supermarket (this has now happened to me because of Riverford).  Had my bank statement this week so was able to see that even with my order from Donald Russell (enough meat 'on offer' to last for months), the veggie boxes delivered over the past weeks have meant that I've spent far less than I would normally when ordering from Tesco.  Don't even need one this week as still have plenty left to use up.

There are few of us (maybe none of us) who can go into a supermarket, intending to buy just one 'necessary' thing - like milk, then buy only that.  Practically all of us would pop something else into the basket, maybe offers or something reduced',  'persuaded' by seeing these that thet are something we really ought to have "while it's there".  What we don't see, we don't miss, so maybe keeping away from the supermarkets is a very good idea.
Hope you were pleased with the variety and quality of your Riverford veggie box Alison, and think you will find it does help to keep your feet in the kitchen instead of walking up the supermarket aisles.

Having said that, I'm going to HAVE to scoot around Morrison's (or order from Tesco) for ingredients for the social club's 'do', but will try to keep myself under control.  Let us hope so.

Today am going to sit down with my huge pile of recipes torn out from mags, then make the final choice as to which canapes I'll be making (already know the type, just need to find the best recipe). Then - if at all possible, mainly with desserts - will see what can be made well in advance, hopefully some can be frozen - then can make these this week which will at least get a lot of the work-load done and out of the (visible) way.   More on that later as I do them (maybe show photos if I can remember).

Have to say that faced with the thought of making at least 500 canapes (15 different sorts) yesterday I did have a mild panic attack Alison, but the trick is to not think as a whole, but just  'thought-organise' one at a time.  Bit like dieting, faced with losing (say) four stone seems too much to contemplate, but doing it one step (or lb) at a time we get there eventually, and at least I do have 2 weeks to complete my task.

Agree Julie that 'too many cooks spoil the broth', and although - in the past did have a team when 'catering' (myself in charge, my friend Gill and my daughter), and we all worked well together.  Otherwise normally prefer to work alone although I have no objection to anyone sitting and watching what I do (or maybe even doing the washing up!!).  This is mainly because I can be a bit of a perfectionist (reputation to keep up etc), so I'd be too busy checking that others were doing things 'properly', instead of getting on with my work. 

Thanks for the suggestion for using the seeded bagels.  Some months (probably years) ago did give some suggestions for making savoury Bread and Butter puddings, and think these would make a really economical supper dish from time to time as the eggs/milk/cheese provide plenty of protein.  Who needs meat?

Good idea to soak dried fruit in that flavoured tea Brenda. Was once given a few packs of herbal teas, and although pleasant enough to drink, not my idea of a 'cuppa', so now use these to make the soaking liquid for dried fruits.  Not all are suitable, but many are.
Used tea-bags I put at the bottom of flower pots to cover the holes (prevents the soil falling out), and they don't prevent the water being soaked up when watering from the the bottom.   Possibly they may have nutrients in the tea-bags that are beneficial to plants, at least my plants don't seem to mind dipping their toes in tea.

Have a feeling that from now until the end of this month, my mind will be so engrossed with canapes et al that my blogs may seem a bit hit and miss.  Hope you will forgive my distraction, but there again, when I do my preparation/ advance cooking etc  you might even find this interesting to read about.

Off I have to go again to start work.  Thankfully it is Saturday so I normally am cooking/baking at the weekend, so nothing new there, but this time with more thought about what needs to be done. 

B did (eventually) manage to cook himself a chicken stir-fry.  Even with the recipe to follow, and my instruction ("get all the ingredients prepared BEFORE you start"), he still put the oil in the wok, put it on to heat, and hadn't even washed the carrot (let alone peel and slice it), hadn't chopped up the chicken breast, peeled and sliced the onion, peeled and grated the ginger, crushed the garlic.....I could go on).  Good job I was there or the oil might have got too hot and caught fire.
The meal (that should have taken no more than 15 minutes to cook from start of prep. to end) eventually took B nearly 45 minutes, but it did look and smell good, other than he had put in too much ginger - he keeps forgetting the recipe is 'makes 4 servings' (he likes big meals so halves the amount but only when he remembers).  He said he worked through the recipe very carefully, but forgot to use the bamboo shoots.  One reason why I ALWAYS arrange the ingredients (ready prepared) on a plate, side by side in order of use, when making a stir-fry.  Once frying is started there is really no time to back-track and find/prepare and ingredient that has been forgotten.  But B will learn.
He's asked me to lay out all the ingredients next time (unprepared) so he has them ready to chop etc,, and I said that's not what cooking is all about.  He must learn where everything is kept, then go and help himself when he decides to cook himself a meal, then wash and peel and prepare etc.  That's what cooks do.  "Otherwise" I said "I might as well cook it myself.  The idea is for you to cook your meal to save me having to do any of it".  What a mean person I am.

Think that B will be careful with knives Kathryn (sorry your OH had a mishap), as he carefully follows Gordon Ramsay's advice on how to hold the fingers of one hand while sliding the chopping knife down past them (mind you I don't chop like that, but that's me).  If he cuts himself he will learn.

Time for me to start work.  Hope you have a good weekend and look forward to having another chat with you tomorrow.  If I get up early enough may get it published before Gill phones, if not then it will be closer to noon.   But whatever, hope to see you then.