Tuesday, January 01, 2013

New Year's Day 2013

Thanks to all who sent in New Year greetings, and hope you are all geared up to make AND KEEP New Year resolutions.  Mine being to try to be more organised.  Have already written down a list of 'things to do today', and intend keeping to it (hopefully for longer than this week).

Had second thoughts yesterday about costing every carrot et al I use when making meals.  As they've already been bought, why make work for myself?  What IS important is how much (or rather how little) I need to spend on food from today onwards.  Every time I can use foods I already have, then no need to go out and buy more - other than the chosen joint of meat each week for the ongoing 'challenge'.  If normally I would spend (say) £25 a week, but - for the time being - instead using what I have - then almost certainly could end up with saving anything between £10 - £15 money a week.  That's over £50 a month - and taking the wider picture - more than £600 a year.  And still eating well.   That's the idea anyway.

Not, of course, the £600 will remain unspent.  SOME of it would have to go on restocking my shelves and also buying the 'quality' meat and fish and other 'necessaries' for our Goode life.  This would still leave me with a few hundred pounds left over, and hope this proves that it is possible to live well but spend very little - as long as we make the most of what we have bought and stored.  By making sure we use it all up and throw none of it away, then we should be laughing all the way to the bank.  Yes, I KNOW I keep saying this, but it is so VERY important.

An interesting little article in yesterday's paper about home-grown fruit and veg.  According to a survey of 6,000 households by the Dept. of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (was this once the Min of Ag and Fish?), more families are turning to the 'home-grown' as their food budgets are squeezed by our recession and rising food prices.
The share of all fruit and veg. consumed in the UK that had been grown in allotments and gardens went up from 2.9% to 5%, official stats. show - and increase of nearly 70%.  Also eggs from home-reared chickens rose from 3.2% to 5.7%.

Seems that beans are the most popular veg, as one in three beans eaten in Britain were self-grown, and myself feel that the popularity of these as a garden plant is they take little room - growing upwards not outwards - and also crop well when planted in the right place.

Ten per cent of strawberries and raspberries were grown at home (so what happened to mine, neither gave any fruit at all last year - at least not worth eating).  Also 9% of apples, 7 % of potatoes, and 6% of tomatoes (expect the percentage would have been greater for the latter if we had had a drier and sunnier summer).

The average Brit ate 3.5oz of home-grown fruit and veg weekly in 2011 - up more than a third on 2010, so things are looking up I suppose - and a pity it takes a recession to get people back to growing their own, instead of doing it for the pure pleasure of eating fresh produce that tastes as good as it should. 
Let us hope that this year the weather improves enough for us to grow even more, not forgetting we still have windowsills that will grow quite a lot of things, a real boon when the weather outside can ruin crops. 

We had a small porch in Leeds, a bit like a mini-greenhouse but under the house roof that partly had an over-hang, cutting out some of the sunlight, but even so was able to grow aubergines, peppers, and tomatoes in there.  Here in Morecambe have had great success growing a year-round supply of Mixed Salad Leaves in small boxes, a large assortment of herbs (my bay tree is in the conservatory as are several pots of flourishing parsley).  Also sprouted dried (supermarket) peas to serve as 'pea shoots', and have also grown some pots of French beans, and also tomatoes.   Oh, yes - grew radishes in a plastic container - very successfully.   This year am hoping to grow more produce indoors and - if the weather improves - more in containers outside.

There was an interesting prog on TV the other night all about our weather.  Briefly, the wet summer we have had (and continuing) is due to the Jet Stream.  Normally it flows across the Atlantic from around the New York area, across to the British Isles (one reason why we normally would get the snow in New York eventually reaching this country).  Only the Jet Stream moved south for some reason, and so we got the rain.  Then it moved back north, but further up above GB, so again we got rain, and unless it returns to where it should be, we will continue to have rain, and more rain!  And no-one knows when - or even if - the Jet Stream will move back and settle over us again.  Let us pray it soon will.
At least the weather forecast is good for a few days, they say a high pressure area will be over the UK and that means dry weather.  But not for long.  We must make the most of it.

Watched 'Julie and Julia' last night (film about the US cook Julia Childs and a lady who 'blogged' about working her way through Julia's cookery book). Was a bit disappointed with the film, not enough cooking to keep my attention, but otherwise it was good.  Think in my own mind I had got mixed up between Julia Childs and Martha Stewart, for J.C. seemed to do cookery progs where things turned out wrong rather than right.   Have to say seeing a snippet of one where she tossed a pancake and it broke up and she patted it down with a fish slice and said it would be alright - well, this did remind me of when I cooked my pan-fry pizza live on Pebble Mill, and had to rush as my time was reduced by 30 seconds, and turned the pizza base too soon, so it broke up when I flipped it over with my fish slice.  Like Julia, I also patted it back down and said '"no problem, this will stick together again as it continues cooking" - and it did!  Just shows that the same things go wrong with almost every cook.  Nobody is perfect!

Hope by now Jane W. you are feeling better.  Am sure somewhere I have a waffle iron that can be placed over a gas burner on the hob.  Many years ago used it regularly, even froze some of the waffles.  Do hope I didn't get rid of it when we moved, but think probably I must have for can't remember seeing it anywhere at all in the kitchen.   

The 'other' jane, makes my mouth water with all the meals she is making (and will be making) as she uses up her stores.  With enough in stock to keep going for weeks (dare I say months?) am sure she will enjoy working her way through them.   Just PLEASE jane, try to avoid buying anything else (other than perhaps fresh milk, eggs...).  The easiest way to do this is get someone else to go and buy these for you, as - like me - once in the store you will probably be tempted by something reduced in price, even if we don't really need it - too good to miss we tell ourselves.  Out of sight, out of mind!

I used to love supermarket shopping, walking up and down the aisles, keeping first to my shopping list then always adding something more (often a lot more), but since I now order online and have the order delivered, this certainly keeps me in check.  True, each time I order I do add a lot more to my virtual trolley than I'd put on my 'shopping list of needs'', for as I scroll down I see something on offer that seems worth having, so I add that - and so end up ordering a lot more than I really need, including 'treats', things I would certainly have put in my trolley if I was actually in the store, and then wished I hadn't when I got home. 
Ordering on-line I still have the pleasure of filling my trolley with 'naughties', then - after seeing the total amount I have 'spent' (ouch!!) - sit down and remove all the foods I never needed in the first place - sometimes even more if I've 'spent' too much. I have been know to reduce my bill by £50!!! which goes to show how much more we often buy that we don't really need.
Yes, I get very tempted, but  with on-line shopping I can give in to the temptation and also enjoy it, as long as I remove it from my order a day later when the thrill has left me.  Need to order several days before delivery to allow me to do that.  Leave it too late and I am sent - and have to pay for - the lot! Only done that once, and never again.

Even if I have tried to be good and just stuck to my 'needs', if the end total is still higher than the budget I have set myself, have to check the 'offer price' (the running total sometimes shows a higher price than that charged at time of sale).  But as most of the items ordered are on offer (most of them this will reduce the total by many pounds, especially if I have vouchers to cash in as well, so am always able to keep within, and often well under, my budget. 

Have noticed that - for instance - a 'bulk purchase' of baked beans is not always as cheap as it seems. There have been times when a four-pack of beans works out cheaper - per can - than a six-pack. Tuna can sometimes be cheaper per can than the same brand/type in a four-pack.  Tesco show the price per 100g for most items on sale (on-line as well as in store - as do most supermarkets) so this is one way we can check which purchase gives us the most for our money.  We need always to check as an offer is often not as good as it may seem to be.   We don't HAVE to do it, but chances are we end up paying more than we need. 

Shopping was so much easier prior to supermarkets, as although it seemed good (at that time) that almost all oods could now be bought under one roof, it wasn't as though before this we had to keep going from one shop to another to buy what we needed.  We could pop into the local grocers and leave our shopping list, and then the order would be delivered.  It didn't really matter what grocer we used as in those days the price of food was the same in all shops, nothing was ever on offer.  The only things reduced would be things like broken biscuits, broken packets,  and dented tins.  Some of those we now pay full price for!

The baker would come to our homes three or four times a week carrying a big basket of fresh bread, buns, tea-cakes, crumpets etc and we could choose what we wanted. The same with the greengrocer who came two or three times a week in his van - we would either tell him what we wanted and he would fetch it for us, or we could walk down the drive to the gate and take our pick from what he had in his van parked here.
The milkman would deliver every day but Sunday, and he sold most dairy products as well as milk.  Even potatoes and fruit juices.

 It was normal for a butcher to bring his van to each street for us, although many people preferred to buy meat at his shop, the same with the fishmonger, and it wasn't until we moved to Leeds in 1969 that I found these deliveries were not so common in Yorkshire.  How I missed them.  But at least we still had the milkman deliver almost daily until we moved to Morecambe just over 3 years ago.  And how I now miss that!

So we really didn't need to go out to the shops very much at all prior to supermarkets, and this saved a heck of a lot of time, and probably we only started to use them because they were so different, being much more fun when we could help ourselves to what we wanted from the much wider variety of foods on the shelves, and seemingly we have never stopped supermarket shopping since.  If only door-to-door deliveries probably will never start again due to the cost of petrol etc. But least give thanks that at least I can still get my groceries delivered (even though from a supermarket).  Also a delivery of an organic veggies box.  We still have a good butcher on our local parade, and a bakery (although that is far too expensive compared to the bread/cakes/biscuits that I can make myself).. 

Continuing replies to comments.   Discovered that the pot of beef dripping has a lot of beef juices trapped beneath the fat, so will add these to the minced cooked beef when making the Cottage Pie (or spag.bol sauce).  Cheesepare said this is what the Italians do - and what is good enough for them is good enough for me and B.

One day I really will try and have a walk round Aldi.  There is one almost opposite the Midland Hotel, a small store that I could probably manage to walk around with the aid of my walking stick. Doubt they would allow my mobility scooter in there.
As to cooking your goose C.P., have myself never cooked a goose (suggest looking up recipes on the Internet), but do know that it is very fatty, needs the skin stabbing to help the fat to flow when it is being cooked - standing it on a trivet in the pan so it doesn't sit in the fat and do save all the fat as it is superb for frying roast potatoes etc. In the old days people used to rub goose fat on their chest to prevent coughs or something.  There is some truth in that for when my son was barely a toddler and was quite poorly with a chesty cough, our Scottish doctor came to see him (in those days doctors came to the house), and when I apologised because I hadn't put clean pyjamas on my son, he said clean clothes were the worst thing to do.  He told me to keep my son in the pyjamas he was wearing until he got better as this would have his body-grease which would help keep him warm, and the reason why - in the old days - people used to be sewn up in red flannel petticoats etc, to wear through the winter without being removed.  

Myself did not stay up to see in the New Year.  I felt very tired, but was woken up by the fireworks next door (they are Scottish!), not sure what time B came to bed, think he stayed up later to watch a film.   When I sat down at my desk this morning it was still dark, and there was a lovely moon shining through the window directly in front of me.    Nearly two hours later it is full light with an almost clear blue sky, but plenty of wind.

Sorry to hear that you'll be having surgery on your shoulder Margie.  Hope that it won't prove too disabling.  Will you be able to have time off work while it heals?  Good idea to make up lots of 'ready-meals' and soups etc, so that these can be easily re-heated and eaten with a fork or spoon.

Perhaps offal is sold in the US and Canada as it is over here, it's just that the cookery progs don't use so much of it.  The other day saw on the Food Network a very usual dish where the cook used those long marrow bones from the legs of cattle, these being cut through horisontally (like we might do with a baguette), and then cooked so the marrow then became edible and could be spread on toast or added to a burger or something.  That's something we could do here, ask the butcher for a marrow bone and ask him to slice it through for us.

One of the best ways to save money is to collect recipes that can make the most of PART of what we have.  The one given today probably useful to those who have the meats already in their freezer, or - even better - plan to buying them and removing some of the raw meat before freezing to make this particular dish (that could then be frozen before being cooked).
No doubt we could use slightly different meats (ox liver instead of pig's etc), to make the most of what we have, but as I remember my mother sending me off to the butchers to buy these, and remember enjoying eating them, this is an old traditional dish that I really feel we should bring back and serve regularly.

Traditionally, faggots were wrapped in caul (a type of 'fatty mesh' that is part of the innards of the meat carcase).  Butchers may have some, or get it for us, but otherwise we could use one long rasher of streaky bacon per faggot , and use this instead.  Cut the rasher in half then pull it across the length to stretch it into a type of 'mesh', slash the fat if it is thick to make it stretch further, then wrap each piece round the faggot, criss-cross (north to south, then east to west), to hold the faggot together.
1 lb (500g) belly pork
8 oz (250g) pig's liver
8 oz (250g) boneless lambs breast
1 white onion
salt and pepper
1 tsp chopped fresh sage
bacon rashers
Mince together the pork, liver, lamb, and onion to make a coarse 'pate', then work in seasoning to taste and the sage.
Form the mixture into large balls (traditionally the size of a cricket ball, but you could make them smaller).  Wrap each in caul or criss-cross with bacon (see above), and bake for one hour at 180C, 350F, gas 4.  Serve with mashed potatoes, mushy peas, and gravy.

The other day gave a recommended serving of meat for a single portion.  This being 100g (just under 4 oz).  Forgot to mention that this is the uncooked weight, so as roast meat tends to weigh less after being cooked, then 75g would be the suggested serving (stewed/casseroled meat tends to keep its weight, anything lost ends up in the gravy).  However, this is the average serving for a typical adult, and depending upon age, appetite and even time of year (and whether we can afford it) we could increase or decrease the amount.   Purely from the financial point of view, because meat is so very expensive, we should serve the minimum for our bodily needs, and - if necessary - even less as long as we can include other animal protein (eggs, milk, cheese etc) in a starter or pudding served with the main course. 

Wouldn't it be lovely if we didn't have to consider nutrition (many still don't and live to tell the tale), and be able to afford to buy just what we want to cook and eat?  When younger I used to hate reading 'sensible' things written by dietitians and nutritionists.  Even that dreaded phrase 'the balanced meal' used to set my teeth on edge.  I didn't want to have to think of things like that.  I wanted to cook what I wanted, not what they said I should be serving to my children.

Luckily our four children seemed to have grown up healthy enough, perhaps because in their youth the supermarkets, or McDonalds etc hadn't yet reached our shores, so meals were what we now think of as old fashioned and traditional 'farmhouse fare'.  Also 'snacking' never seemed to happen in those days, other than perhaps eating an apple between meals.  It was breakfast, lunch and supper in those days, made with mainly fresh produce, plus some lovely puddings and home-made biscuits and cakes..  Fish and chips being the only 'take-away'.

Since I've been 'cost-cutting', realised that learning about nutrition can be a very good way of saving money.  Despite the fact that many so-called  'health foods' are more expensive, these aren't the same as foods that are also 'healthy' (but not often called that), many of which are incredibly cheap.  So ditch the costly and concentrate on eating good food that we CAN afford. 
Despite the higher price of the 'roast' joint, at least this new challenge is moving back into the old style of eating, all of it being very healthy (ignoring the dripping on toast!) as most of it consists of cooking fresh produce (if you will allow me to call frozen food (meat/veg) as 'fresh'), and - as I've said before - hopefully it WON'T end up as expensive as it might seem.

Don't know if any of you read the 'flyers' from supermarkets that drop through the letter box, or even read the list of 'what's on offer this week' on a supermarkets on-line site, but almost always there is only one item that just might be worth buying - the rest of the 'offers' (20, 30 or more) are all what I call 'junk food', but at such low prices it seems senseless not to buy them.  No wonder we are getting to be a nation of obese adults and especially children, and as the recession bites even further into our purses, probably more 'junk food' will be the choice.

One of the problems with 'dietary information' is that we are not always given the whole story. Myself managed to lost a lot of weight (many years ago) by just counting calories, and I didn't bother where they came from. The danger is once we believe that it if we eat the recommended number of calories for our sex and age, then that is all we need to stay healthy.
Perhaps many mothers do care enough to the nutritional details on packets and tins, and if  2,000 calories can be provided more cheaply by potato crisps, chocolate biscuits, and pizzas, than in meals of meat, then why pay more? At least certain that all provided will be eaten, other - healthier and more expensive foods - might end up uneaten.  

Yet, how many of us eat the recommended 'five-a-day'.  Myself rarely bother to count how many different fruits or veggies I've served B or eaten myself (and potatoes don't count).  Sometimes I might eat only a couple.   Or maybe too much of one (like four kiwi fruits) and not enough of another.  There are times I think I'd be in better health if I took a daily dose of multi-vitamins.

Yesterday B ate reasonably 'healthily'.  For his supper he had a slice of cold beef and a slice of home-cooked ham, with a jacket potato, lettuce, sliced bell pepper, tomato, and sliced beetroot (only four of the five a day). Myself had ham, lettuce, bell pepper, tomato, beetroot, with a banana. So I did have my 'five'.  More by accident than design.

The rest of the sliced beef (meant for yesterday) B has requested to be saved so he can eat it in a sarnie.  Today will slice off more beef (to freeze for another week), then cut up the remainder to use (in strips) for a Chinese stir-fry (or strogonoff), and mince up for Cottage Pie (or spag.bol).  Or might cut up some of it into chunks to make a curry or casserole.  The 'foreign food' is not what my mother would make from her 'leftovers', but then in those days few people had ever heard of spag.bol, chilli con carne, strogonoff etc.  So perhaps we have the good fortune to now be able cook meals that make the 'Sunday roast' go even further.

Time now for me to trot off into the kitchen and begin working through my list.  Must remind B that he has beef dripping, sliced roast beef and cooked ham, also home-made lemon curd he can help himself to without having to ask first. Sometimes I wish there was role reversal and he made for me all the meals and 'treats' I have always made for him.  But bless, he did bring me a gin and tonic last night as it was New Year's Eve.  Perhaps why I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.  Had some nice dreams too.  Hope there is some gin left!

Hope we can all work together to make 2013 a really good year for us - both financially and enjoyably.  All who are following my challenge (whether the Sunday 'roast' or the 'use up what we have' - or maybe both) please keep reporting back to let us know if it works for you - or even if it doesn't.  When we share our experiences, we each help each other, and together we can make a vast difference to the way we approach our shopping and cooking - all of course with the aim to spend less (a lot less - even in this time of recession) yet still eat well.  So let's get on with it.

Please join me tomorrow for the next episode of 'Shirley's challenge'.  See you then.