Monday, December 10, 2012


Thanks Les for sending me details of  Sean Wilson's forthcoming programme.  Since leaving Corrie, he's made a name for himself making cheese, and won several awards for these I understand.

Your mention of people carrying their purchases in Harvey 'Nick's' bags etc, Jane reminds me of the time when I used to go to London and buy something cheap (and yes they do have 'cheap' - I bought some ceramic blue and white chopsticks rests there for 35p each!), then save their green and gold carrier bags with their name on it,  and take that with me when I used to 'go visiting', and perhaps use it to carry wrapped gifts in it (just to give the idea the pressies were bought from Harrods when probably they came from Woolworths).

We all give a warm welcome to Ivy, who I believe has not sent in a comment previously. From the sound of it is also a fan of yours Les, so hope she also reads your own blog - think it is called 'the cleverclogs.'

Congratulations on your 'cookathon' Alison, am sure your efforts are well appreciated, especially by 'the lads' who seem to have an endless capacity for eating when teenagers.   Traybakes always go down well, and even though perhaps use the same amount of mixture as a round, deeper cake, seem also to go further.  Gingerbread and Parkin keep well, and very seasonal (I always make these around now ready to eat at Christmas).

Glad you mentioned reducing chicken stock Marjorie, as one chicken carcase (or better two or more) will make pints of good stock, but we need space to store/freeze it.  By reducing down it then will set into a very thick jelly.  Poured into small containers (a really reduced stock I freeze in ice-cube trays) these then become similar to 'stock cubes', just need thawing and water adding to make it back up to the amount you need.  I 'reduced' ice-cube of stock will make 1 pint of chicken stock.
A reduced chicken stock (cold but still liquid) can be poured through a hole in the top crust of a home-made pork-pie to fill the gaps, it will then set to a firm jelly.  Saves making the 'jelly' with pig's trotters (usually these have to be ordered from some butchers).

 Yesterday mentioned the pleasures of eating good food (example: quality meats/fish, and organic fruit and veggie) affordable because money put by from 'deliberate' savings paid for these. 
But "what's so 'deliberate' about saving" I hear you all cry.  "We try and save money all the time".  And so we do.  But my 'deliberates' take doing the normal to one step further. 

How many times do we fry a couple (or more) eggs and think there is no saving we can do other than crush the egg shells and sprinkle them round the roses?  Now me - well you know me, miserly to the end - would break one egg into the pan, and then separate the second and just add the yolk to the white already in there (there always seems too much white anyway for one egg, and the nutritional part is the yolk, after all).  This egg white will be saved (it can be frozen), but try and incorporate it with another white saved when making something else that day (maybe a cake/quiche etc).  These whites can then be beaten with caster sugar to make meringues - saves about £1.  Or macaroons (saves about £10!! - yes 'macs' are THAT expensive to buy, but very cheap to make).

At this time of year macaroons make a good gift, and meringues (or meringue nests) good individual desserts for a party.  So a 'deliberate' saving when the whites are put to good use. 
But it doesn't stop there.  Whatever we do 'by habit', we could probably alter to doing something similar using something cheaper.  Brush pastry/scone tops with milk instead of beaten egg to help it get a golden glow.   Cook sausages in the oven (this way they brown all over instead of just the bit that hits the pan), and then pour off all the fat into a small container, let it set and use it for frying instead of dripping, or other oils.  
Add chicken skin to the carcase along with any fatty bits of the bird and once the stock has been made, let it set in the fridge and the fat risen to the top will have set and can be scooped off and also used for frying.  Some people use chicken fat instead of lard when making savoury pastry - perfect for chicken pies.

When peeling/coring a few pounds of apples - perhaps when making apple crumbles/pies to freeze, then don't throw out the peel/cores, put them in a pan with a little water and simmer until collapsed, then push them through a mouli-mill or sieve and pot up the puree to freeze to serve later as apple sauce or to add to other fruit when making jam etc (the apples contain pectin).

Well scrubbed veggie peelings (carrots, celery, parsnips, potatoes, also the outer skins and first layer of onions usually removed before slicing...) can be put into a pan with some water and  cooked until tender.  These make an excellent vegetable stock (parsley stalks can also be added), this reduced down will not 'jel', but will take up less space so can also be frozen in ice-cube trays (but remember to label).  Stock cubes are not very expensive to buy, but 'a penny saved is a penny earned' and home-made contains no salt or preservatives like those bought which is all to the good.

In the old days our mothers/grandmothers use to save the paper that butter was wrapped in, then use this to grease cake tins.  It was only the other day that I realised why we don't do this often, and this because butter usually comes out of the fridge in a solid block, nothing sticking to the wrapping.
The other day left some butter out overnight to come to room temperature (which at the moment in our kitchen is almost as cold as the fridge), but at least had put it at the end of the table that is not a million miles away from the radiator - so that when the heating came on, this helped to soften the butter, and so much of it stuck to the wrapping as in the good old days and I was able to use the residue to grease the tins I was about to use.   
In summer we are more likely to get butter left on wrappers, and if we do, then save them and keep them in the fridge to use as above. 
Our mothers even used to carefully tease open their empty sugar bags to save all the crystals that use to be trapped in the folds and pleats.  It may have been only a teaspoonful of sugar that was gleaned back, but like pennies....every teaspoon saved is a lbs-worth earned... .

When I cook a gammon, I'll work out how much the cooked ham would have cost me if I had bought it (as I always used to do) over the counter in small packs.  As this has been mentioned (and costed) before on this site, all I need do is remind readers that £££££s can be saved by cooking/slicing ham ourselves.  Same goes for home-cooked beef, turkey, chicken, tongue, et al. 
It is oh, so easy just to pick up a pack of pre-cooked meat to take home to use for sarnies, but believe me - if we have a freezer, and electric slicer (cooking the home-cooked this pays for itself within a very few weeks) then buy and cook the meat, then the amount of money we can 'deliberately' save is well worth the small amount of time and effort it takes.

When we keep within our food budget and shop sensibly we should be able to - with each shopping spree - return home with products that have a long shelf-life and that can build up our personal larder-stores.  By the end of the year we should have enough to keep us going for several months without any need to do any serious shopping at all - other than perhaps buy fresh milk (although the UHT is satisfactory), eggs, and some fresh vegetables (although winter root veggies will keep for several weeks/months when stored properly).

So January normally sees the start of my 'use it all up' challenge, and if I can go through a month without having to buy anything at all (this can easily be done using UHT milk etc), then I will have 'saved' the food budget that I might otherwise have spent.   This would be enough 'deliberate' savings to pay for TWO sets of offers from Donald Russell (although I tend to buy only one at a time).  So in a way 'free meat' - on the understanding that if I hadn't put myself out to stock up my larder especially to see me through the first three months of the year, then I wouldn't have the money to lay out on such quality produce. 

There is always someone to point out that even if I am 'making do' on what I have, initially money had to be spent to build up my stocks, and this is true.  But as I buy only when the prices are reduced/on offer/bogofs, then this is a form of saving.  Also, if keeping within my budget (usually spending less anyway), if I didn't bother to stock up, then almost certainly more expensive foods would have been bought that we didn't really need, with nothing in the way of money to ease the burden when prices rise. 

At one time I used to write down every penny I'd managed to save (either by taking advantage of offers, or home-cooked v bought), but now tend to rely on my bank balance.  It is easy to work out a food budget that I can keep within without struggling, and as I pay for most foods via credit card and on-line ordering (Tesco, Donald Russell, Riverford), giving B a cheque every so often to put in his bank to pay for anything I need from Morrison's (we have a little account book where what he buys is deducted from the balance of the money I gave him - and this includes the 'treats' he adds to the basket for himself), it is easy for me to keep an eye on food expenses, and see that the balance remains healthy - which it is doing in spades at the moment (despite the fairly recent introduction of organic fruit and veggies into the Goode kitchen).

Yes, I know I'm rambling on, and on and on... but do hope this proves that with 'deliberate' thought, it is possible for many of us to cut our costs even further, so that we are able to spend these precious pennies that we have saved on even more precious 'perks' such as quality meats/fish and organics, free-range or what you will.   Strange as it may seem, just taking that extra bit of care means we can keep within our now-strained food budgets, but still enjoy good eating, maybe for the first time for yonks.
Have to add to the above that even though D.R. meats are on offer, quite often these also include 'freebies', and over the past few years I've had several pack of ox liver, mini-beefburgers, minced steak, even beef fillet tails, also bones for stock that arrive with my order (I often choose an offer according to what freebies it includes).  The polystyrene boxes the orders arrive in are worth having as I use mine as (1) containers to grow vegetable in the garden, (2) use as a cold box when collecting chilled/rozen foods from supermarket or more distant shops, (3) use as a container to keep foods hot (or continuing to cook) as with a 'hay box'.    As a 'proper' cool bag or box can cost several pounds, this poly box is a saving in itself.   It's also the right size to store things in  and fitted with a loose cover will make a toy box/seat for a children's room.

The above is perhaps of not much help to those who already are having to spend less on food with no real chance of saving pennies other than to help towards other bills, such as fuel.  Even so, we can still eat good meals on almost a pittance.  As ever, it's what we do with what we've got. 

The other day I was explaining to someone how I find the 'Beanfeast' range of dried meals (made with textured vegetable protein (aka TVP) is a good way to save money.   Myself regularly use the Mexican Chilli, and Bolognese Sauce 'Beanfeasts', but add to them to make them go further.
The packets (99p each) say they make 2 servings (which they do - and generously), but when I add a can of own-brand cheap chopped tomatoes (to either one), and more veggies to the Bolognese (plus some cooked pasta)  and a can of own-brand cheapest red kidney beans, to the Mexican Chilli (serve with a pitta bread),  then this makes each meal stretch to 3 or 4 servings.  As the additions are very cheap, a serving could then work out at less than 50p each, and quite honestly it's hard to believe that there is no 'real' meat there.  That's what I call making a saving.

Because I don't need to be quite so thrifty, I fry some 'real' minced beef with some onion in a pan (or I might use some pre-cooked (slowly in the crock-pot) mince, then divide this in half and add one to the Mexican Chilli with canned tomatoes (later adding the beans), and the other half to the Bolgonese Sauce (adding more veg, tomatoes etc, plus a good dollop of HP sauce and a dash of Worcestershire sauce), then together this makes six meals that can be frozen and two left for myself and B to eat for supper that day (he may have a spag bol with pasta, I may have a Chilli with a jacket potato).

We can take almost any recipe for a meal that has been costed out in a cookery mag, and adapt it to give one more serving that averages out at less per head than the original.  So don't feel we have no alternative but to accept the cost as shown for this can lead to us believing we now have to increase our purchases or buy lesser - and cheaper - quality.  Quite often those that write out the recipes are based in London, where it is accepted that prices are higher, and most of the time they cost at the higher rate - 2 free-range eggs at 30p each for instance.  Slap me down if you must, but when we have to count our pennies, I would use 2 x 10p barn eggs (there, I've already saved you 40p with no real change to the recipe, so no cause to complain other than the moral issue and I'm here to chat about costs, not ethics).

Here is a recipe that might give an idea of how I would adapt it to fit more comfortably into my purse (my adaptations are given in brackets).  This is a cheaper and easier Australian version of our now traditional 'Sticky Toffee Pudding' (and it makes it's own sauce so no need to bother with the more expensive 'sticky toffee' one.  As it serves 10 then either make as a good - and less expensive - alternative to the heavy Christmas Pudding, and so popular with both adults and children alike, or make half quantities for a normal family meal.
As this can be prepared a day in advance, then ideal for the Christmas 'pudding', as it can be popped into the oven to cook prior to sitting down to eat the main course.
If you have a liquidiser, then grind down some granulated sugar to turn it into caster sugar (this can be ground down further to make icing sugar if you ever need any). This saves a few pennies.  Also buying granulated sugar in large bag (5kg etc) is often cheaper than when sold in lesser weights. Stored properly, sugar keeps for ever.
Not the cheapest of puddings, but you get a lot for your money, and - at a pinch - you could omit the marshmallows.

Sticky Chocolate Pudding: serves 10
5 oz (140g) butter (or soft margarine), melted
13 oz (375g) self-raising flour
half tsp salt
6 oz (175g) caster sugar
2 tsp baking powder
6 tblsp cocoa powder
12 fl oz (350ml) milk (could use reconst. dried milk)
3 eggs, beaten (cheap eggs - see above)
1 tsp vanilla extract (worth it but opt).
1 lb (450g) light muscovado sugar
7 tblsp cocoa powder
700ml boiling water
2 handfuls marshmallows (opt)
Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, and the 6 tblsp cocoa into a bowl then set aside.  In another bowl mix together the milk, melted butter, eggs and vanilla.   Fold the wet and dry ingredients together, then pour into a greased baking dish (capacity about 2 - 3 litres).  If not wishing to bake this immediately, wrap in clingfilm and chill for up to 24 hours).
To cook the pudding, remove from the fridge and remove covering, then sprinkle the muscovado sugar and cocoa powder on the surface and pour the boiling water over. 
Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 35-45 minutes or until the pudding has risen and puffy and firm in the centre. Scatter the marshmallows on top and return to the oven for a short time (check every 30 seconds) until the marshmallows are just melting.  Serve immediately with cream or ice-cream.

Here is recipe that although not cheaper than the (say) supermarket burger, is at least - when home-made using quality beef - one considered worth eating, especially by the lads in the family.  Myself would make these using the 'free' mini-burgers that came with a D.R. offer, as once thawed they can be broken up, re-shaped, have other ingredients added etc, and great for making into meatballs and larger burgers.  My way of explaining that it is possible to eat a great (home-made) burger that is almost free courtesy of DR.

Not that I'm necessarily promoting DR, but at least know that their meat is superb, and they do provide 'freebies' to their customers.  Our butcher gives out free chicken carcases to his customers.  We have to keep our eyes open and see just what is there for the asking.  A bit of give and take (some might call this bartering) also helps.  I give my butcher the fresh cuttings from my rosemary and bay bushes, and in return he gives me 'extra' beef fat, bones, chicken carcases....  You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours!
So you see why the following recipe can work out a lot less expensive than it first appears.

Rockburgers: makes 4 burgers
1 lb (450g) lean minced steak
1 small egg (or just the yolk or white of a large egg)
1 small onion (or shallot) finely chopped
1 tsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper
2 oz (50g) Roquefort or other blue cheese
Put the minced beef, egg, onion, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste in a mixing bowl.  Mix together thoroughly, then divide the mixture into 8 portions.  Flatten each between two sheets of clingfilm or baking parchment to form 5" (1.3cm) circles.
Crumble the cheese and place a quarter on the centre of each of the beef circles.  Cover with another circle, sandwiching them by pressing together firmly round the edges.  Cover the burgers with clingfilm or paper then roll them gently to flatten slightly.  Stack between film or paper and chill until ready to cook.
Either brush the burgers with a little oil then fry in a frying pan, or use a griddle pan, or cook under a grill for 10 minutes,(or if the oven is on cooking something else, they can also be cooked in the oven) turning once.  Serve hot, with a salad - or to eat at the wander, stuff between a split burger bun and top the burger with salad and sauce before clapping on the lid.  

Time has caught up with me again.  I've written all the Christmas cards that need sending, so these will be posted today, the remainder are hand delivered.  If postal charges go up (again!) this may see the decline of posted cards, but those sent via email - although beautiful - are never quite as good as those that can be displayed on shelves or hung on cords.    At one time we used to have hundreds of cards sent to us, now we are lucky to receive 20 through the post (others are hand-delivered).  Mind you, this has happened because due to families moving around and lost addresses, and - at our age - friends now deceased, this is inevitable.  I usually keep old cards so that they can still be displayed as they alone can decorate a room to give it the Christmas touch, without having to provide more (and often expensive) decorations.

Because yesterday I was playing my 'I'm feeling poorly' card, we had a Chinese takeaway for our supper.  Although we had different meals, both were curry based - B giving me most of his sauce as he doesn't like it 'sloppy' (could have fooled me - so why does he insist on me always blending leftovers?).  The spices in the curry helped my throat no end, and B said it seemed to improve his, but today he is an even poorlier boy than yesterday. Have to admit my throat is a bit 'chokier', and now I'm sneezing, but I really don't feel ill, just a bit off-colour.   Either I will get worse, or B is 'putting it on' a bit too much.   Perhaps men are not 'programmed' to dealing with any forms of illness, and the slightest feeling of being 'off colour' sends them back to bed.   Makes sense, for if women were the same, who would care for the children, cook the food, clean the cave.... Nature really has the most sense.  Just sometimes I wish I was a man.  But not often.

Another lovely day (so far) and believe it will stay like this - at least no rain - but getting steadily colder.  Watching a trailer on TV yesterday re the floods  "one in 6 houses are in danger of being flooded" (and presumably this means all the houses in all of Great Britain), it just shows how bad this summer has been.  Torrents of water flowing down many streets, bungalows flooded up to near roof level, and people wading along roads through water up to their armpits.  Not just in one town, this has happened in many places.   The lack of drainage is caused - in part- to the concreting over of field that lie close to rivers.  We see huge carparks, supermarkets etc, even private property with now-paved gardens where once was grass land where water could drain.  And they are planning to build even more property (and lots of it) for those who come to live in our country, again on grassland that would normally drain away excess water.   Few of us like to see high-rise flats, but perhaps this is one good reason to build them as their 'footmark' takes up less space than (say) fifty houses built side-by-side.

Must go, must go, as ever have things to do that I should have done yesterday, the day before that, last week, and last month.  I'll never catch up, and do I care?  Short answer is NO!

As ever, enjoy your day, and keep those comments coming.  Back again tomorrow, so hope to see you then.