Thursday, December 06, 2012

Bleak Midwinter

Is it really winter yet?  It certainly feels like it, but so far, although now has been forecast for much of Scotland and even as far down as Manchester, so far Morecambe has escaped it (boo-hoo I love to see snow falling).  Where my son works (and now lives) in Essex, they have had snow and their car got stuck in it.   So all readers who have had a snowfall (or now having one) do take care.  Even if no snow has fallen, the roads and paths will be very icy - it really is cold outdoors, not that I've been out, but when Norma came in through the back door this morning, I could feel the cold air entering in with her.

A comment from Jane - re 'struggling through January' because the money had been spent on Christmas - was the same with me, and the very reason I had to teach myself to cook using the few 'basics' I had in my storecupboard.  At that time it was not just Christmas gifts and food, but unfortunately had about six birthdays to buy gifts for just prior to or just after Christmas, so that was extra expense.   I remember having ordered a big bag of Avon bits and bobs, and had left them on the kitchen unit, meaning to wrap them later, and when I went to get the bag it had disappeared.  B said he thought it was rubbish so he'd thrown it in the dustbin (with other rubbish), and the bin-men had collected it that very day.  I was devastated!  So had to buy more gifts to take the place of those that had been dumped.

Ever since that time have always built up stores to keep me going through the winter, and as many readers will know, my Big Challenge each New Year was to live off these and what else I had in the fridge/freezer, and last as long as possibly without doing any further shopping at all. 
When I began this blog, this was a challenge that I wrote about, deliberately spending a set amount of money, storing the foods, and then seeing how long they would last.  But having said that, at that time we did have a milkman deliver milk (plus eggs, butter, yogurts, cream, cheese, and even potatoes) so having decided to spend no more than £250, did include all the deliveries from the milkman over the challenge period, and was able to make the food last 10 weeks, which worked out at £25 a week (or £12.50 a head - and this did include meals for several guests during this time).  And very good meals they were too because I had to really think a lot harder about what could be made, and then made the most of it.
Perhaps some of the details are still on this site - I've had to delete a lot as blogger limit the space I can have (or so it seems) - I haven't checked recently.

In any case, when we have a really bleak winter, and try to stay indoors rather than go out to the shops, then our stores really do come into their own, so am hoping many readers will repeat my challenge and try and use up what they have rather than go out and buy something. 
It really IS strange how so many of us (myself included) go and buy more food when we already have enough.  Perhaps we just enjoy shopping (I know I do).

That book you mentioned Sairy was "More For Your Money".  My co-author was Erica Griffiths who was the producer of most of the TV programmes I've appeared in (not including Pebble Mill). It was she who suggested I write the book after the tremendous interest on cost-cutting when I appeared in "Indoors, Outdoors".  As I had no experience in writing, she offered to work with me, so I provided most of the recipes and the 'how to', and she edited the lot together, adding other necessary things.   Erica also found a publisher (Penguin books), and without her I'd never have been able to do it.  
After that Erica asked me to do 'The Goode Kitchen' (BBC series), which I agreed to, and this was filmed in my own kitchen in Leeds.  The book that went with the series was published by BBC books, as was 'Goode For One' (not my favourite book, but they asked me to write it), and then they allowed me to write the third book "Have a Good Year". 

Do remember the 'Bazaar' cookbook, and there would be recipes of mine in there as I was one of the 'resident' cooks on the series over at least a couple of years.  I did have a copy, but think - like most of my books, they seem to have disappeared when we moved to Morecambe.  I've looked everywhere but can only find one, and that's dropping to bits.

We must have a huge population in this country at the moment, as considering we are all tightening our belts, the following puzzles me:
"UK households are projected to spend £792 million less on Christmas this year than in 2011, but still expect to spend £22billion on gifts, toys, decorations, and food and drink this year.
According to a recent report, the average UK household will spend £835 celebrating Christmas this year, down slightly from last year (the average then £865).
Under 48% of the public say they can "just afford" Christmas, 26% can 'easily afford it', and 12% say they 'cannot afford it'.  (What about the remaining 14%?).

So we are spending £30 less on average this year?  Sounds OK but when we take into account the £835 that is now the 'average', that to me sounds a heck of a lot anyway.  Surely we could save a lot more than £30? 

Watched Superscrimpers Christmas Special the other day, and even that made me shake my head in disbelief.  A man was being shown how to buy and prepare party food for (I think) 20 people.  And whoopee!  The cost was as low as £2.50 a head.  Were we supposed to be full of admiration?  I was reminded of the recent 'Casino' buffet I'd prepared the food for, and as regular readers know the guests were served 'gourmet' food that worked out at around £1.75 a head.

Was surprised when the lady (who supervised the shopping) said that smoked salmon did not freeze.  It does freeze well, but she was right in suggesting that smoked salmon 'trimmings' were the best buy.  These are far cheaper than buying larger slices as they'd have to be torn up anyway to put on top of canapes.

There are now a lot of 'Christmas Specials' on TV (esp the Food Network) at the moment, but am finding the latter channel a great disappointment as so many of the programmes are being repeated almost daily.  If I've seen Nigella cooking 'precious chicken' once, I've seen her cook it at least 20 times over the past few weeks.  The same with all her programmes.
I'm not even blown over by the (at least new) series with Lisa Faulkener an a man whose name I cannot remember.  This is also repeated at least 3 times during 24 hours. 

Of course it's me that's at fault.  I still live in cloud cuckoo land where it is necessary to spend as little as possible.  Nowadays it seems that we should try to spend a little bit less than we might normally have done, but still stuff ourselves up with fabulous food that costs far more than I would ever consider paying.  Perhaps the main idea behind these programmes is to show us that we can cook much at home instead of buying the ready-made.  But for those just learning to cook, most recipes for dishes shown are beyond understanding.   Why can't they keep things simple?

Because my blog is later today (had to wait for Norma the Hair to leave), best that I don't ramble on in my usual way, and being winding down (or is it up?).
The next thing I will do is go and read the newspaper, although almost dreading it.  A couple of days ago - and naturally - the paper was full of the Royal Baby-to-be, but did we really need so much written about it?  As well as on the front page the next fourteen pages covered the event.  Yesterday was almost as bad but kept it down to nine pages. 
Methinks today the main headlines will be the mini-budget given by the Chancellor of the Exchq. It seems that although there will be help re tax for some of those on middling incomes, those that earn less and pay little or no tax will be much worse off as many benefits (child allowance etc) are to be cut.  So that means more people needing the Foodbanks, through no fault of theirs.

Oddly, pensioners are faring quite well, so we have no grumbles, but even so feel a lot more could be done to provide money to those in need (again through no fault of their own).  Have read that the government intend building thousands more homes to house people who come into our country (to gain housing and benefits) and these will be built on what were 'green belt areas'.  The more land that is covered by property, roads, shops and parking etc, the less land there will be to carry away the excess rain water.  So more building = more flooding.
There has to be a limit as to how many people this country will manage to 'cater for', and feel we've already over-stretched our limit.  

Daughter has just arrived, so must love you and leave you.  Be back again tomorrow, hope to see you then.