Thursday, November 15, 2012

Inside Warmth..

Before today's chat about how to keep warm this winter, must first reply to comments.
A welcome (or welcome back) to Heather, who is asking for suggestions for home-made 'ready-meals' to leave in the freezer for her husband to reheat whilst she is away.  
My first suggestion is to ask him what are his favourite meals, then - if these will freeze - make plenty of these.  Other suggestions for meals that freeze well are beef and chicken casseroles, curries, chilli con carne, cannelloni in tomato sauce,  spag. bol.  Also Chinese dishes such as sweet and sour chicken/beef/pork, or Singapore noodles, also freeze well.
The sachets of rice that heat up in 2 minutes in the microwave are a great boon for a man who doesn't know much about cooking.  My Beloved uses these when he has a go at making his supper and not even sure if he would even bother to wait for a jacket potato to be cooked in the microwave. Everything with B has to be almost instant (although it does seem to take him over half a hour to cook a meal that could be made from start to finish in under 10 minutes).

Keep some cans of chunky soup in your larder, and crusty rolls in the freezer, then these too can 'make a meal' (more about soup below).  I recommend the brand I'm having a chat about. 

There is no need to pre-soak pearl barley before adding it to a soup/casserole Jane.  I only soak it prior to cooking when making a speedy meal as this cuts the cooking time of the barley by at least 10 minutes.   Your mention of discarding some because it was well over its b/b date made me think - I tend to just open a bag of pearl barley and tip it into a Kilner jar, and then just 'use it up' with no idea of the b/b date (naughty but no probs so far).  Unlike dried beans (the older these are the harder they become, until an age when they won't soften at all), pearl barley seems not to become unusable, but of course it makes sense to use stocks up rather than let them languish on our shelves.  
When running out of something, then replenishing with 'fresh', don't tip the new on top of the old, always empty the jar first, then put in the new and then replace the old on top, this way we don't get left with the 'ends of'' getting older and older.

As you said Jane, 'Superscrimpers' yesterday was a great disappointment.  I too thought it was mostly all repeats from other series, although it wasn't shown as a repeat.  There was nothing at all useful in it about saving heat, even cutting a T-shirt up to make a vest to wear under layers didn't really make sense.  It is far better to wear a complete T-shirt under (say) a jersey when we want' to keep warm.  This way the top of our arms and shoulders also get a double layer.
The lady that spent over £400 a week on food was unbelievable.  As they had three 'take-aways' a week can't see why she needed to spend so much, but her storage cupboards did show that she kept buying the same things (HP sauce) for instance, and then not using them.
Have to say I envied her eating all that chocolate and still not ending up over-large (she was plump, but had it been me I'd have ended up 40 stone!).

But must now be serious, and concentrate of what is concerning most of us - the cost of heating our homes.
This last week I've been trying to work out how much it does cost to heat one room using central heating.  It doesn't seem much per room per hour, but believe me it certainly adds up when the heating is kept on for several hours, and the costs are crippling if the heating needs to be on all day.

As you know, now that I'm of a great age and with mobility problems, I do feel the cold (very much so) , and over the past months (even during this summer) have sat huddled in my chair in the living room, clutching a hot water bottle, and with a couple of 'throws' over me. 
But this week have tested another idea, and IT REALLY WORKS!

What we need to do on cold days, is to warm ourselves up before we go and sit down, then - once tucked up, we keep in our 'boosted' internal heat.   This may sound obvious, and there are many who would suggest a run round the block would do the trick, but age can be a great barrier to having a 'work-out', and we need to consider how to warm up without having to do much moving at all.

The easiest way to raise our body heat is to eat a warming meal.  It goes without saying that a bowl of porridge for breakfast is one of the best - and cheapest - ways to start the day. Oats also (as do peppers) have this 'feel-good' factor. This in itself is worth knowing about as it if we feel good, then the cold is far less likely to make us feel miserable.
For economy, use the cheapest porridge oats on the market.  These with milk will make a bowlful in three minutes cooked in the microwave.  Sweeten with sugar (honey is even better) to help give us that extra boost of energy we need).

If we have no choice but to spend most of the day sitting in a cold room, this week have tried a new idea.  After my initial 'warm up' (porride) of the day, then heat up a flask of piping hot soup and take that into the living room with me.  This because I've discovered that a good soup is one of the best ways to give me that 'internal warmth', and after tucking myself up and having a mugful, this inner glow lasts me a good 2 hours.  Then I pour myself another mugful, so keep up this warmth even longer. 

This is more like 'grazing' that eating the recommended 3 meals a day, but for those who have to choose between 'heat or eat', this way they are guaranteed a constant 'inner warmth', and any heating of a room that may be needed later, can then be at a lower than usual temperature, which means the less fuel used, the more money saved, which is more than enough to cover the cost of the porridge, soup, etc.  And don't forget the jacket potato (cooked in the microwave) which is another 'warming' food.
In the old days, children used to be given a hot, oven baked, jacket potato to put in their pockets to take to school for their lunch.  It helped to keep their hands warm during the travel to school.  No cars then, it was often a mile or two walk in the snow to get to the classroom.  What a pampered lot we are today!

Soup has to be my favourite meal when it comes to 'instant' warmth, for opening a can and heating up the contents is pretty instant.  Don't get me wrong, for home-made soup is normally cheaper than the canned or packet soups, and if we can make this ourselves and freeze it away, then we should plan to do this now ready for the winter chill.  BUT, older people who live alone don't want to be bothered making soup from scratch.  They just want to sit in their chair and be comfortable.  Even I now open a can rather than making my own (although I still do), and since I have recently tried a brand that I've not sampled before, have to say I'm finding it has been worth it.

The reason why I 'trialled' canned soups was because recently my eye was caught by the logo 'Best of British' on Crosse and Blackwell soups, and you know me - whatever I've done in the past, now try to buy British whenever I can, and it was their new range that sounded so appetising, so thought I'd give them a go, and last week tried four of their quite vast and complete range, and not only did I find these really good (this is something I don't say lightly), but that several had 'second uses'.  Here are my 'for instances'.

C & B's Broccoli and Stilton Soup - one of the slightly more expensive of their soups, but extremely good, AND enough in a can to serve two.  As it was only me sampling the soups,  the second half of this can I used as a 'sauce' to pour over some cooked cauliflower the next day, and this with grated cheese sprinkled on top made a very good 'Cauliflower Cheese'.  So two dishes for the price of one so to speak.

The C & B's Chunky Tomato and Basil Soup (roasted tomatoes, Spanish paprika, garlic and double cream) was a real winner.  Regular readers will know that some months ago I tried various brands of tomato soup, and disappointed by all - and this includes the iconic Heinz.  But this one was superb, I could eat it every day.
However, mindful of economy, I measured out half a canful, but as it was so thick (plenty of bits of 'real' tomato in it - yum, yum), needed to dilute it with water, so one (diluted) can could have served three. As it was, the remainder of the can was perfect as a ready-made sauce to serve with cooked pasta the following day, again with a grating of cheese (Parmesan) on top.
I just love the way that two meals can come from one can.

Have to say that the 'Hearty Mulligawny' (one of their lower priced soups) was all eaten in one sitting as I love Mulligatawny, and the curry base to the soup gave an extra feeling of body temperature rise, which lasted nearly three hours.  But again, this soup was thick and rich enough to extend by cooked rice to make it even more filling (a meal in its own right) making enough for an extra portion.

The fourth soup I tried was Roast Chicken and Vegetable, and this is very much more a 'meal in a can'' than 'just a soup' if you know what I mean.  Unlike most processed soups, this tasted very 'home-made', so those who like to cheat when entertaining, could get away with pretending this was made by our own fair hands.

There are others in the range that I intend to try such as C & B's Beef, Root Vegetable, and Ale soup.  Their Pea and Ham Soup as reading that this is "made with Wiltshire cured ham, and garden peas sourced from Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, and Norfolk" certainly is as British as we can get.  If nothing else it makes me feel good to know that by buying soups such as these (mentioned above) we will be helping to keep our national food producers going.   Wish we could help our dairy farmers for they seem to be getting a rotten deal these days.

Once we let our own (British) producers down by choosing to buy imported foods, even when they are grown in this country, then we will probably see the demise of our nation's farms and have no choice but to have most of our fresh produce come from abroad (or grow it ourselves).  It may cost us a few pennies more to buy locally grown (by this I mean British) produce, but as readers will be realising by now,  I'm now proving that those few extra pennies (and even £££s spent on 'quality produce' (organic and free-range)  - with careful thought as to what can be made from them - means that overall, my food budget has actually gone DOWN.   Unbelievable, but true.

Spent part of yesterday making marmalade, and today making more, plus jam.  Tomorrow making lemon curd - and it does seem that whenever possible, 'home-made' is certainly the cheapest (and still the best) way to go.  But when it is impossible to do this, then as long as we are selective about what we buy, and use (say) a can of soup go further than it was intended, then this too will be a form of saving, not just money, as it also saves time. 

This coming winter I will be 'grazing' more often (for those who count calories this is beneficial) to keep up my inner warmth, so am expecting from now on to be far more comfortable when sitting in our cold living room, just as long as I have a flask of piping hot soup at my side, ready to sip whilst watching TV (or reading), and - who knows - this could mean we end up not needing the heating on so often.  Worth a try.
For those who may be concerned about my Beloved, he is rather clever.  He sits in the warm living room doing the crossword and reading a book at the start of the day, and then when the heating goes off and the room cools down he always finds something 'outside' to do, so off he goes in his car (with the heating on of course), returning almost to the minute when the central heating is timed to turn on again.

Any further tips on how to keep warm without upping fuel costs, then please share your thoughts. I'll be back again tomorrow, all being well, at the usual time.  Hope to see you then.