Saturday, January 12, 2013

Cold Facts

Don't know whether I'm paranoid about the cost of everything, but I do seem to spend a lot of time in 'research'.  Yesterday, after reading about the high cost of heating our homes, and how the elderly (of which I am one - and have been for many years) should have the heating no less than 21C in their living room and 18C in the bedroom, got me checking the temperature in our living room.  Not just once, but many times throughout the day.  Makes a change from checking the price of food I suppose.

As you know, before Christmas, I had been feeling chilly when sitting in the living room, even when the weather was not really cold.  However, since eating more food during the festive season (and gaining a stone because of it!) have not felt the cold so much.  Even though I have now lost a few of those gained pounds, still comfortable as long as I have one or two 'throws'  to put over me.

As the weather has now turned much colder, and wanting to make sure our living room was 'fit' for the elderly (such as me an B) to sit in, took in a thermometer around noon to check the daytime temperature after the central heating had switched off (this at 10.00am).  This I placed on a table at the side where I sit. At the same time took a large mug of soup in with me to drink for my lunch.  The soup warmed me up so, once I had tucked a padded 'throw' round me felt quite cosy.  But ouch!  The thermometer showed the room temperature was only 15C!!  I put another (crocheted) throw on top of the first to make sure I kept warm, then later filled a 'hottie' to cuddle as well.

The temperature stayed at 15C for a while, then went up to 16C (maybe my body heat warmed up the air around it) , but although the rest of me was quite comfortable, my feet felt cold so I put the thermometer down close to the floor, and there it read 13C, returning to 16C once it was back on the table by my side (waist height). This seemed to prove that hot air rises and unless we have underfloor heating, we are wise to always wear warm socks and/or slippers.    Did toy with the idea of sticking the thermometer to the end of a broom handle to hold it up near the ceiling to find out how much warmer it was up there, but didn't, not that I won't give it a try, but as I'm hardly likely to sit on top of a ladder to keep warm, not really much point, other than prove this particular one.

Something else very interesting was discovered - well, I thought it was interesting.  The heating came back on again at 4.00pm, and the room warmed up fairly rapidly, but only to 19C.   After B and I had been sitting there for a few hours, eventually it did warm up to 21C, but by then it was 8.30pm and the heating switched off at 9.00pm, fortunately not cooling down too rapidly, maybe because the curtains had been closed and the door kept shut (B having gone out).

Later that afternoon I'd got B a light supper (requested) of Prawn Cocktail, so also made the same for myself.  As the salad and (thawed) prawns were cold, although the room was now heated, after eating my early supper, immediately felt very chilly, and my hands - that had been warm - then turned really cold, (editing in this bit - B has just told me that this is because the body uses up some of it's heat to warm up cold food that has just been eaten).

During the day, because of the low temperature, had got myself a hot water bottle to keep me cosy, but by tea-time it had cooled down, and - as I usually do - tucked it behind my back so the remaining warmth of the bottle would keep my back warm.  Several times I've noticed the 'hottie' never seems to get much colder once behind my back, but left at the side of my chair within a few minutes gets stone cold.

So - to warm my hands, I tucked one behind me, between my back and the 'hottie'.  My cold hand then made my back feel cold, this making the rest of my body feel chilled again, so I changed to tucking my hand between the hottie and the chair.  Much better.  Very soon hands were warm, and my body warmed up again, ending up quite cosy, even though the temperature was still below the recommended level.

Last night was one of those where I stayed sitting in my chair instead of going to bed.  This for two reasons, firstly wanted to watch late TV, and also keep a check on the room temperature.  Despite the room cooling down to 14C (waist height, lower still at floor level), still felt cosy enough under my two 'throws'.  Decided to tuck the thermometer between the 'throws' and me to see the temp. there - this settled at 25C, this at least reasonable.  As the 'hottie' had also not cooled down further (still behind my back), brought it out, removed the screw-cap and stuck the thermometer inside.  The temperature of the water was 34C (thats 94F - just below blood heat).  

Something else was then proved to me - my body heat was keeping the water warm in the 'hottie',  and therefore when our bodies are covered by layers of clothing and one or two quilts or 'throws', this insulation prevents at least some of our body heat escaping.  Something similar happens when several people gather together in a living room - the combined escaping body heat warms up the air, and so we should then be able to turn down the central heating several degrees without the room getting any colder.

This morning, before the c.h. came on at 6.00am, even at such a low room temperature can honestly say that at no time did I feel uncomfortably cold, due to my 'throws' and the warmish 'hottie'.  The only part of me that did feel the chill was my face (but most of the time half of it was tucked under the crocheted throw), and my feet.  But do have thermal socks that I can wear and these work a treat.  As does my crocheted 'snood', worn round my neck (although neither worn yesterday). 

It could be that where my B sits (he doesn't seem to feel the cold in the room as much as I do), the temperature is warmer when the central heating is on as he sits closer to the radiator.  Our living room is very large - perhaps 24 feet in length, and I sit at one end, the radiator is at the other, B sits halfway. 

So you see where my research has got me.  At least have been able to prove to B that the room is far colder than it should be 'for the elderly', "so please can we have the heating on earlier when it is cold?", and that we do need to eat warming meals to keep our 'inner glow'.  Have myself always known that as long as we keep our feet, hands, neck and head warm (especially where the blood flows close to the skin - like the wrists, ankles....), then the rest of our body will stay warm. 

As I've only just put the heating on in this room, my hands are cold, but do have an 'inner glow' due to a bowl of warm porridge eaten for my breakfast.   B forgot to switch the comp. off last night after using it, as I discovered when I touched the mouse and the screen lit up instantly.  The comp. also began working fairly rapidly, so seems I was right, it slows down when cold.  The window behind the comp., normally covered in moisture in the morning, was bone dry today, dried out from the very small amount of heat coming from the comp because it had been left on.   

Anyway, enough of my 'research', doubt my finding have been any use whatsoever to anyone else, but I do love to share my 'experiences'.  
B brought the small electric hand mixer, and an even smaller digital radio for me yesterday, so today I will pre-set the radio, and also being using the mixer, so might end up most of today in the kitchen, maybe having to put the central heating on a bit earlier as it can get very cold in there.  Depends whether I'll be needing the oven or not, the fan heater will blow warm air out, and the table where I work is close to the oven.

Again, many thanks for comments sent.  Although I used often to make my 'soft-scoop' ice-cream Alison, do find that ice-cream made 'properly' (using a machine) is far superior, other than it tending to turn out rock-hard after freezing, while the soft-scoop IS soft enough to scoop.  I now tend to freeze home-made 'proper' ice-cream in individual containers, so one can be brought out to thaw for about 15 minutes before B is ready to eat it.  This also prevents him helping himself to too much ice-cream as always happens when he scoops it froma larger container.

What a good idea your mother had Lyn M, diluting a can of vegetable soup with water, then adding chunks of bread to it - making one can then enough to feed four!   Do something similar myself with the Mulligatawny and Minestrone.  To the first I often add a tablespoon of rice taken from a 2-minute microwave sachet (freezing the remainder of the packet - this can then be used again for the same purpose) - as it 'cooks' almost as soon as it reaches boiling point.  To the Minestrone would add a few crushed/broken bits of 'quick cook pasta', and simmer the soup until the pasta is cooked (or the pasta could be cooked separately whilst the soup heats slowly, and then added.  With extra water and the rice or pasta added, this means one can will make at least two large portions, and three or four 'standard' servings.

Our table salt is iodized Lisa, but we are still recommended to use very little (if any at all). There are murmurings in the medical profession that we should have at least some salt in our diets, although normally we get more than enough from the processed foods we eat.  Most chefs seem always to add salt to the food when they cook, and more than we home-cooks possibly would, they add half a teaspoonful, we add just a 'pinch'.  The US cookery programmes seem to add salt almost by the tablespoonful.   Usually 'kosher' salt, and don't think that is iodized.

Good for you jane, not spending money this week on food.  Pity you have to break into your piggy bank to buy a new electric kettle, but at least you will already have saved the money to pay for it, and hope this continue to spur you on to continue saving. 
You ask whether we'll be having a joint this weekend, and have to say I haven't yet bought one. Probably won't as last week's 'use up some of the meat/fish already bought', also kept my money in my purse.  I still have the uncooked half of the original joint of beef bought (now frozen), and also some of the cooked left-over beef from the roasted half, so enough from that first 'roast' to really last us two weeks, not just one. 

If deciding to buy a large joint for a Sunday roast, then myself feel that good beef would be the best buy (especially if able to be bought at half-price, as mine was).  Left-over beef can be turned into many dishes, whereas lamb is not so easy to use up, cold lamb we find not particularly palatable anyway.  Pork we prefer to eat as ham, or pork chops/sausages etc., although belly-pork is a favourite of B's, but can hardly call belly-pork a 'roasting joint' (as we would a leg of pork).
Roast chicken makes a lovely meal, but nowadays the price for a larger bird (more flesh the heavier it is), is almost as high as a good sized joint of beef/lamb/pork, with more bone and less flesh to 'do things with', although we do have the advantage of the carcase to make plenty of chicken stock.

So this weekend, think I'll still keep using what I already have and not have the (originally planned) 'Sunday roast'.   My expenditure so far this year has been £6.66 for 'roast beef', £3.87 for 3 x 4pints milk, £5.95 for butter, £7.26 for 11 packs bread mix (8 white, 3 brown), £5.75p for a pack of 2 (frozen) lamb shanks, £3.25 for 2 packs smoked haddock, £4 (offer price) for 2 pks bacon, £1 for a 1.5kg bag of strong plain flour, and £3 (offer price) for 5 cans soup.  Think that's just over £35.  B did bring in one or two other foods for himself, but then he pays for these, and they are for his 'snacks', not part of his main meals.
As I'd allowed myself a maximum of £20 a week anyway, over the two weeks, this has still kept within my budget, and worth noting that other than the beef roasted Sunday before last (although not all of the leftovers have been used - now in the freezer), and one lamb shank cooked during this last week, the rest of the order has yet to be used, and had been bought mainly to store.  The fresh milk should last us at least a month (it does keep well in our low temperature fridge).
Did have a tray of 18 eggs (£2.50) delivered, but got all this money refunded because one egg had been broken en route.

In all honesty (I keep saying that, but it is true when I say it), I could have done without ordering any of the above (other than the initial purchase of the beef - for my challenge).  It would have been difficult to manage without bread, but could have coped at least one more week, but really did need plenty of 'back-up' mixes. We still had some 'fresh' milk from a previous purchase, and also UHT milk.  A bit low on butter, but B could have used (but wouldn't) soft margarine that I had.   Soup could have been home-made, bacon we had but running low (B likes to always have a supply of bacon for his sarnies), but still enough for the week ahead, smoked haddock not absolutely necessary but had run out, and the lamb shanks worth buying as the price (even though had risen by 75p a pack) still amazingly good value. 
Although still had a tray of 15 'value' eggs as yet untouched, these could be used up within a week as had planned to do plenty of baking, which is why I ordered more.   Eggs are high in protein, cheaper than meat and fish, and quick and easy to cook (saves fuel).  Today will be hard-boiling about 8 eggs to add to certain dishes (kedgeree, salads...) and to make egg mayo for sarnies.

Another annoying thing about me is that I spend many hours each day thinking about things. Yesterday was no exception, so between taking the temperature I had time to sit and work out whether it always makes sense to make everything from scratch or whether we could use some ready-mades to our advantage.  At least the 'readies' do save a lot of time and labour, often fuel-saving as well. 
As I'd been 'chatting' about canned soup, began to think more about them, and saw no real reason why some of the better brands couldn't have a place on my shelves, just so long as they were 'extened' by adding more ingredients, so that they worked out cheaper per portion.  As I only buy these when on offer anyway (the recent purchase of soups were 89p each at full price reduced to 60p each when 5 were bought - making a saving of £1.45p.  Yes, I know I could have made soup cheaper, but at least this way was able to have a variety, and ready to heat at speed.

Even so, this has made me realise that the cheapest way to make soup is make it ourselves, and after reading the ingredient list have proved we can add more nourishment (meat, veg) than in the canned, and still keep the price lower.  It's just that some older readers, who may live alone, and who may not even have freezers, may have no real wish to make soup.  The older we are, have to say the easier we wish life to be.  On a very cold day, we want soup that is almost instant (thawing can sometimes be too long).

A way to make the cost of a can work for us, is we could (as mentioned above) extend soup with a little more rice, pasta, cooked meat etc (as long as well heated through), to make a real meal of it, and if no fridge, using the remainder the following day as soup, or as a 'sauce' poured over meatballs, chicken, pasta, even (adding curry sauce to the soup) over freshly cooked (still warm) hard-boiled eggs served on a bed of rice as 'Curried Eggs'..

As ever, my main purchases (above) were done because the price was right, and while I was ordering something anyway, it seemed to make sense to take advantage of said offers, and could also use up vouchers I had.  (Also got the bonus of a tray of 'free' eggs). Suppose, in a way, this is my excuse for buying food when I really should have managed without doing so.  I my B wasn't so obsessed with 'good eating', and I lived alone, then I would certainly have coped on what I had.  I just like to please him, and there is no financial reason at the moment why he can't have what he wants, it's just me and my challenges that tend to put a spanner in the works.  You would have thought that starting the week with the old-style Sunday roast would have put a beam on his face - and so it did.  But the smile soon faded when B was served beef in one form or another on consecutive days.  He is used to - and very much enjoys - eating a much wider variety of meats, never the same two days running, and who can blame him?

However the second 'challenge' (running side by side with the 'roast' one) is still working, as have plenty of choice of meats/fish and almost everything else edible that B desires, so that will continue as long as possible.

After falling by the wayside (just a little bit) with my recent order, at least this means that I should now be able to last the rest of this month without buying any more food at all.  Maybe towards the end of the month might order a box of organic veggies to be delivered, but will have a few weeks grace before this is paid from my bank account (credit card). But even the supply of fresh veg will depends upon the weather conditions.  If we have snow, then this could make a difference as to what is available, and possibly not what I wish, so won't then be ordering. 

B has set up Radio 4 on the new digital, placed it by the kitchen table so that I can listen as I work.  Think on Saturday's there is The Food Programme that could be worth listening to.  Who knows, maybe I'll even start listening to the Archer's omnibus again on Sundays. 

One recipe today, this for a chunky protein-packed soup.  Certainly not the cheapest soup we could make, but can be assured that if we bought 'something similar' in a can, it would cost a lot more.  Call this a soup, broth, or chowder, it doesn't really matter as it certainly makes a meal in its own right.
For those interested in the nutritional side, one serving contains 485 cals, 35g protein, 27g carbs, 27g fat, 13g saturated fat, 4g fibre, 6g sugar, 4.4g salt.

The nutritional content of recipes are not normally given, but when we wish to reduce calories, or lower the fat/salt/sugar used, we need to have a guide to find out where to start. 
To reduce cost I would use less bacon (say 6 rashers) and fish (14oz/400g), and add more vegetables (can of sweetcorn instead of using cobs, plus another onion and potato.  Fresh semi-skimmed milk plus a tablsp of dried milk could be substituted for the cream. Doing this would reduce fat and  protein, the extra veg would give us more fibre (and vitamins - these not mentioned). The bread is optional and not included in the nutritional guide, but would add extra carbs and fibre.

I do wish we didn't have to bother about fiddly things like concerning ourselves about the nutritional side of the food we eat, but the less we eat (whether to save money or to lose weight) the more we need to know to keep ourselves on the right path to health and wealth.

Have to apologise to new readers who might be novice cooks, as I tend to assume that all readers have some knowledge of cooking, so can make their own adjustments to recipes to be able to use what they have and still keep the 'balance' (of the dish and nutritionally).  If anything I write seems puzzling, then just ask for clarification.  We all have to start somewhere.  I was 40 before I taught myself how to cook and it took YEARS for me to understand why some things should be done and others not done, and still have a lot to learn.

This recipe is the original, but as said above, plenty of room to make adjustments to the cost and ingredients (see above for suggestions).
Sweetcorn, Haddock and Potato Soup: serves 4
1 oz (25g) butter
1 onion, chopped
8 rashers smoked streaky bacon, chopped
3 medium potatoes, diced
1.75 pints (1 ltr) vegetable stock
2 sweetcorn cobs, kernels only
1 lb 2 oz (1kg) skinless smoked haddock
5 tblsp double cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper
handful fresh parsley, chopped
crusty bread, to serve
Melt the butter in a large saucepan and fry the bacon and onion for 5 minutes until softened. Add the potatoes to the pan and cook for a further 2 minutes, the pour in the stock.  Simmer over low heat for 8 minutes until the potatoes are almost cooked.
Cut the haddock into small chunks, and add these to the pan, together with the sweetcorn kernels.  Cook for another 3 minutes then add the cream and some ground black pepper. You should not need any salt, but add a little if you feel it needs it.
The soup can now be cooled and chilled for up to two days, or it can be frozen for up to a month, but defrost completely before reheating gently in a pan.
When the soup is hot, stir in the chopped parsley.  Ladle into individual bowls and serve with crusty bread.

Practically noon, this seems to be about the time I finish writing these days, previously aimed to finish by 10.30am max.  Maybe when the days get longer and I rise earlier, will return to early publishing. 
Hope you all have a good weekend, and not have too many problems re frost and snow.  Keep those comments coming.  Will be back tomorrow (may be late publishing again as Sunday Gill always phones me at 9.00am).  TTFN.