Thursday, December 27, 2012


So it's nearly all over!  Just a few more days, then we see the start of a New Year.  Do hope all readers managed to have a good Christmas.  Unfortunately much of the country had to deal with floods - the weather map showed practically all of England and Wales coloured red (floods), with the exception of Lancashire and a bit of Cumbria.  Seems all the ground is now saturated and there is nowhere for the water to go, so the floods get higher and higher.  The only way we will have any improvement is for us to have weeks and weeks of dry weather, and in this country, this is most unlikely.  Perhaps we should each think about building an Ark and begin looking for another Ararat to float away to.

It was lovely to have Christmas Dinner cooked for me, although we had to rely on other transport to get us to our daughter's, B's car now having to have its MOT before it can be used again.  Think we both ate far too much, and since 'the day', not at all healthily, eating up left-over mince-pies, cake etc.  Really must begin cooking again, although as now have got used to having several days without needing to do any (other than making bread), almost wish I didn't need to.

On Christmas Eve -  took Norris out of hibernation and scooted down to the shopping parade to get a last few items.  Went early to miss the crowds, and luckily it wasn't raining, but when I turned the corner and saw the long, long queue at the butcher's (who also sells milk, eggs, butter, cheese etc), decided I couldn't face waiting. . Everyone in the queue - it seemed - was there to collect their fresh turkey (sausages etc) and it would have taken about half an hour before I even got into the shop the queue was that long.

However, managed to get my pressie for B (good malt whisky/s), and so that was sorted.  I had bought him a chef's knife (it had its own self-sharpening scabbard), but decided as he would hardly ever use it (it was expensive) I'd keep that for myself and so bought him the malts instead.  He can use the knife when he wants to, but if it had been 'his' then I wouldn't have been allowed to use it, and it would have been a bit of a waste of money.  My need (for a good knife) is greater than his I told myself.

My mind has been going round and round re my new challenge.  It dawned on me the other day that it was a bit daft of me to begin 'buying' food from myself as all the food in store has already been paid for - so why pay for it twice?  So had a rethink about my approach.
Initially the new challenge was to find out whether we could afford to eat 'old-style':  a roast on Sunday then use the rest of the meat up over the following days, and remembering that the first thing I did when forced to reduce my food budget (must have been fifty years ago....) was to stop cooking a joint of meat each Sunday, and make meals using cheaper cuts (casseroles etc), and considering the price of meat today (even the cheaper cuts), just wanted to see if it was possible to keep within a fairly low budget if I went back to buying a weekly roast again, as even the 'left-overs' from the joint would be more expensive than (say) buying raw minced meat or stewing steak. 

So - what I'm going to do is allow myself £20 a week as my food budget, initially starting with buying a joint of meat (or a large chicken) to roast each Sunday, then using the 'left-overs' from this with any vegetables that I already have to make several more meals over the following days.   Will also need to cook 'something different' on Wednesday (my Mum used to buy chops or something to cook that day), also serve a fish dish on Friday, and egg and chips on Saturday.  Then begin all over again. 

As I've already bought the joint of beef for this Sunday (a large joint that I cut in half to freeze/cook on two Sundays in January), will still take the cost of this from the £20, leaving me with over £14 for anything else needed.  Nothing else should be needed as I have enough veggies to last a couple or so weeks (or longer), and other foods in store.  So the rest of the budget will be put into a separate purse to save to use for later purchases.
Each week will start off with a new £20 note (to buy the meat etc), and what isn't spent will be added to the 'savings' purse.   
In a couple of weeks will need more fresh milk, probably eggs, butter, and a Riverford organic veggie box, then nothing more for a while (other than a weekly purchase of meat). So it will be interesting to see how it all works out.

At least it should make life easier for me knowing what meals will be made each week (roast meat with all the trimmings on Sunday, cold meat and jkt potatoes Mon; Cottage Pie Tuesday; perhaps Cauliflower Cheese Wednesday; meat casserole Thursday; fish on Friday; Egg and chips Saturday).  Already I feel bored with that and I haven't even started!  At least can use some 21st century recipes to add a bit more interest - maybe a curry/spag.bol/chilli con carne instead of Cottage Pie (or casserole).  Or even a fish risotto on Friday.   My mother hardly ever served rice or pasta - always potatoes - with her meat dishes.  Thankfully, today we have many more alternatives.  
Not sure what veggies (other than spuds) my mother would have served with fish, peas in those days being a seasonal vegetable, but expect she did have dried peas, so perhaps she soaked and cooked these and we had mushy peas with our fish.  Should I do the same, or take advantage of using frozen peas?  Well, why not?  Peas are peas after all.

Several comments have come in over the past few days with Christmas Greetings, so my usual 'blanket' thank-you to all who sent them.  No doubt most of you will still be using up your festive 'left-overs', so it will be New Year before we all get back to our usual routine and - hopefully - start up your own challenge (or follow mine?).

Seems that thousands of Brits went to the Sales yesterday and spent £millions.  Mostly all using credit cards I suppose.  Obviously plenty of bargains to be had, but were they all 'needed', or is it just the pleasure of buying something at lower-than-normal cost that drives us to queueing up in the early hours of the morning waiting for the doors to open?  Considering how strapped for cash most of the nation seems to be, how can they afford to spend all that money?  Or are we getting a bit like the Spanish?  "Live for the day and worry about tomorrow" I've heard them say (on TV) when asked why they don't save their money.  As yesterday's tomorrow is now 'today',  according to the Spanish way of thinking,  tomorrow never seems to actually arrive (so why bother to worry about it?).

Really must get myself into some sort of routine when it comes to my cooking.  Up until now have tended to ask B what he'd like for his supper each day, then try and make it for him.  Now it should be much easier working with 'the roast'.  But do I wish it to be easier?  Not really. 
So perhaps will begin using up stores and make B 'treats' so that he still has things to eat (rather than help himself to what's there is without letting me know, and then I find I have run out).  I've explained to B about my challenge and that he can still eat what he likes (within reason) but always to let me know first so that I can keep an eye on 'costs'.  It's no good me trying to keep within a fairly tight budget (tight only because the meat now costs more than I would normally spend) if B keeps pouring a quarter of a pint of cream over his desserts each day.  A pint of cream now is expected to last at least a week - if not longer.

Today am making a big pan of vegetable soup using up some of the chicken stock made - and oddments of veggies that need using up.  Also must bake another large loaf - B having eaten a lot of sarnies over the past couple of days (roast ham, bacon, cheese....) so better to make it today than leave it until we run out.  Hopefully B will have soup for his supper (maybe some sarnies later).  Also want to make some Flapjack as that is easy and fairly cheap to make (for B's 'snacks').  For myself might make a big pot of popcorn to crunch on (B also likes that so had better make a double batch), and really should make some more marmalade this week. 

Incidentally, weighed the gammon that I roasted, and it did lose more weight due to being oven-baked.  When simmered in liquid on the hob it hardly loses any weight and ends up much moister.  Not that the oven-roasted isn't good, the flavour is very good, but it is just a bit drier, and there is less of it than hoped for, but still plenty (over half has been sliced and frozen, the rest sliced and bagged up and in the fridge for B to help himself to).  In future will always cook the ham on the hob, and not bother to roast it, because I just want to end up with more for my money.

There is some ham 'stock' (drained from the roasting bag) that is in the fridge, set to a gel - with a layer of fat on top. Today will remove the fat, and then use it as the base for another soup (probably split-pea) that can be frozen.  The fat from the ham stock (and also the chicken stock) will be saved and used for frying. There is never anything wasted in the Good kitchen if it can be used.

Have smoothed out all the Christmas wrappings from gifts given to us, and also all the little ribbons and 'bows' that came with them.  So already have 'the makings' towards next Christmas.  Will do the same with the cards and other decorations once they have been taken down on Twelfth Night.

My thoughts are already turning to sorting out vegetable seeds, and very soon will be sowing a few in pots and containers so that I have a very early start with the herbs and especially the 'mixed salad leaves' (as the latter will grow quite speedily in the winter months as long as in the warmth of the conservatory).  They say the recession will get worse (before it gets better - if it ever does), so we should all take extra care so save as much money as we can, while we can. 
Am sure we all have hints and tips that help save money, so please share yours if they haven't already appeared on this blog - or remind us even if they have.  'Every penny saved is a penny earned'!

Anyway, that's it for today as want to get on in the kitchen to make the above mentioned.  This afternoon really have to watch the repeat of Downton Abbey as didn't see the original, choosing to watch The Royle Family' (on at the same time).  Will also put the joint of rump in the fridge, to start defrosting ready for roasting at the weekend.  If I add some clarified (bought) beef dripping to the roasting pan, am hoping that the juices from the meat will flavour the fat and turn it into the sort of beef dripping that B loves to spread on toast - with a sprinkle of salt!   If not, can always use it to roast the potatoes and cook Yorkshire Puddings.

It will be good to get back 'in harness' again, and hope by tomorrow I will begin to feel 'normal' again, these few days off have really unsettled me.  Almost wish it would begin to snow, but suppose that is something the country really could do without, there are enough travel problems already, floods and landslides cancelling trains and even air travel disrupted. 
Do readers of this blog in the US/Canada get to see on their TV (or in newspapers) pictures of the dreadful floods we are having in the UK? Yesterday there were well over 200 more flood alerts due to more heavy rain forecast.  It's getting worse, not better. 

But - as we say - whatever the weather, we try to make the best of what we have, and let us hope that all readers find things improving, one way or the other.  Please keep those comments coming, and let us know what challenges YOU will be aiming for.  I'm running out of ideas for new ones.

Looking forward to 'meeting' you again tomorrow.  If you can find time - see you then.