Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Working it Out.

Before the days of supermarkets all food prices were controlled in that there were none 'on offer'.  All grocers sold the manufactured/packaged foods for the same price.  Different brands may be either cheaper or more expensive, but always the same wherever bought.  Some foods - such as sugar - was subsidised by the government, possibly many more, but we never had to spend time 'shopping around' to find the best bargains.   Grocers did reduce prices, but only on things like dented tins, and packs of broken biscuits etc.   Fresh food (fruit and veg) could vary in price according to the time of year, but always cheapest when in season.

Nowadays it is one long slog to hunt out the best bargains and in the newspaper yesterday there was an article about supermarket promotions and bulk buys that often proved more expensive than when buying the items singly.   Milk for example.  We could buy 6 pints for £1.65p, 4 pints for £1.25p, 2 x six-pint cartons for £3.50p, and 2 x four-pint cartons for £2.  Worth working it out for yourself, but if you can't be bothered, then the 4 pints for £1.25p works out at the most expensive way to buy = 31.25p a pint, and the 2 x 4-pint cartons for £2 = eight pints at 25p each.

The research people seem nowadays to have plenty to concern themselves with when it comes to food shopping, with one on the most recent studies showing that two-thirds of 1,000 people who were surveyed got it wrong when asked for the cheapest promotions linked to bacon, and more than 4 in 10 failed to identify the cheapest milk (as given above).

Interestingly the proportion of people who hunt for the best deals has risen from 79% to 91% since the same tests were carried out in 2011, but there had been virtually no improvement in their ability to find the best value options.

Myself now find it we can't rely on the supermarket 'offers' to be the 'good value' they expect us to believe.  I've found that multi-packs of (say) baked beans or canned tuna often work out more expensive (per can) than when bought singly.  The only way to be sure of getting the best value is to read the small print (either on the price label fixed to the shelves, or given in brackets next to the cost price when shopping on line), this normally gives the 'price per 100g' or similar. 
Having to continually check prices takes a lot of time, but worth doing - if you HAVE the time.

Another article I found interesting, this about money earned (either by labour or maybe even benefits?).  Seems our 'spending power' is at an all-time low due to rising unemployment and low wage growth piling pressure on family finances.
Yet it says: "The average spare income of hard-pressed households last month was £155 a week - £10 a week lower than three years ago....The average home has a total income of £699 a week, but pays £117 in taxes, and £427 on essentials such as housing, food, clothing, utility bills and transport".

Whilst not disputing that the price of almost everything has rocketed, am very surprised that it was felt that a family WAS 'hard-pressed' when they still had £155 a week left to spend on anything they wanted.   Goodness me, there were times when £5 a week (left over) felt like I'd won the Lottery (even if in those days £5 probably would have bought what would cost £50 now).

But then I can only view life from behind closed doors so to speak.  B was telling me on Saturday that beer now can cost £3 a pint in a pub (it was cheaper at his sailing club - who have a licence). When I worked as a barmaid it was 11d (what's that in today's money? Just over 5p?) a pint.  This means the price of ale has increased times 60!  Quite a lot of other things have too.  However, for those who enjoy eating fresh pineapple, am happy to tell you we pay no more for this than Mrs Beeton did over 100 years ago. 

Suppose if B and I 'dined-out' once a week as many people still do, or go to the pub several times a month, or took holidays abroad, or, or, or....then perhaps the £155 wouldn't go very far.  In days past only the wealthy were able to live 'the good life', now it seems that everyone expects to be able to afford to live like kings, and it is only us really old folk who realise that once younger folk have begun to take such things for granted, they feel very deprived when some have to be given up. Us older ones just settle back into the less affluent ways we have always been used to, and eternally grateful for anything 'extra' that we can still have/use (in my case a washing machine!).

Even saying that 'hardship' is more to do with attitude, or at least I believe it to be as I've met several people recently who actually enjoy 'having to cope', for they then become far more aware of what there is 'out there' (often for free) to be enjoyed, and really find pleasure in re-learning old skills.  Gaining a 'sense of achievement', usually lost when we rely on someone else to do the work for us, can be brought back into our lives and this alone is worth a king's ransom. 

Life today has reverted back to how it used to be and still should be.  A bit like only being able to eat strawberries when in season for those very few weeks.  Being able to buy them all year round and we don't appreciate or even enjoy them.  So by now - due to the recession - being forced to do a lot more ourselves, we then are able to enjoy the very short time when we perhaps can afford to take life a little bit easier, once or twice a year - maybe going on holiday.  This cloud of financial depression we are all under certainly has a silver lining.  Just as long as we lift up our heads and hearts to take a look and enjoy it.

Thanks Eileen for your comments on the Indian meal, and a further comment from you which I find hard to believe, but will try.   

Am always surprised Pam, when I hear from US readers, how it seems that Indian restaurants or take-aways are very few in America considering how they can sometimes just about take-over a city here (Bradford and Leicester for instance).  But then we have a large Asian community who prefer to eat their traditional curries, and it is said that Chicken Tikka Masala has taken over from 'fish and chips' as our favoured national 'take-away'.  
With so many different 'curries', what's not to like about them?  They don't even have to be spicy-hot, ranging from fragrant flavours through the mild, medium, hot, very hot, and 'blow the top of your head off' hot.  Perhaps a little like some Mexican chilli-based dishes.   B and I both enjoy eating curry, and as I've learnt more about cooking these, will now make more.

Watched the 'Cup Cake Wars' this morning (Food Network) as the theme there was cupcakes to serve at the Indian Film Festival, so the cupcakes had to have a 'flavour of India' which the contestants found a little difficult to manage as it seems that most of them hadn't previously tasted any of the spices and flavourings that they were given to 'play with'. 

Wish I'd got the chance to go to a car-boot sale again as you got some really good bargains from the one you went to jane.  I've been using my EasiYo quite a lot recently (making Greek and Mango yogurts for the 'Feast'), and because I'd got only one 'thermos', couldn't make more than one litre each day (two if I began at 6.00am).  I ate the last of the mango yogurt yesterday evening, and all the Greek - used to make Raita - had been eaten at the 'do' (our daughter taking home the last little bit), so today must make some more, this time Greek (always need that) and perhaps a toffee flavoured (given me free as it has reached its b.b.date).  I'd bought some new Mango EasiYo to make for the 'do', then couldn't find where I'd put it, so had to use a pack that was way over its 'date' (like by a year, maybe more!!), but it was still OK.   Once made the yogurt keeps very well in the fridge, I've found it perfect after 3 weeks.  Any left can always be drained and turned into cottage or cream cheese.

Yes Janet, think it was the 'Ugly Cottage' that we saw (we were in North Wales), not that it looked ugly to me.  Just 'quaint'.  Didn't realise that the 12-year possession thingy was now not allowed, so pleased you were able to gain your extra 'plot' just in time.  It will add value to your own property whenever you wish to sell.

Yesterday managed to get the kitchen tidy again and just about everything back in place.  Still want to do a bit of reorganising as really need more 'working room' on the unit tops.  The little bit I'd already cleared turned out to be a boon when cooking on Saturday.

Both freezers now have part-empty drawers and shelves, so will remove most of the long-storage items from Boris (our US style fridge-freezer) and use these to fill the drawers in the smaller four-drawer freezer, leaving me room to store frozen main-meals for B and also puddings (for B), in Boris as 'he' is far more easily accessible. 

Even the larder now has plenty of shelf-space, so today am planning to go in there and bring down tins and jars of foods I've had in store long enough, and move others around in the hope of clearing one shelf that I really need to store all my baking tins etc that - at the moment - are here, there and everywhere in the kitchen.  Once kept together then it will be much easier to find the exact tin I want to use, when I want to use it (at the moment it can take me 15 minutes to 'hunt the tin').

Pleased to see that most of the country yesterday had another good day.  Except of course to our area, and although we didn't get such high winds as forecast, we had the rain, so I never did get to sit outside in the sun.  But - like strawberries - when our summer DOES arrive, it will probably be only for a few weeks, so all the more enjoyable (as long as free to sit out in it).  In the past we used to occasionally get long dry and warm summers (usually once every 11 years, said to be due to sunspots or something), and we got so fed up of it that we actually found pleasure standing out and getting wet when the first rains began to fall again, and just loved the smell of this in the air when this happened. How times change.  Now we have too much rain, no noticeable smell, and not nearly enough sun.

Still heavy cloud this morning, but the sun seems be be breaking through so who knows, maybe it will be a glorious afternoon - as it can often be in Morecambe, but usually I am in the wrong room to notice.   At least I'm still alive and that's something to be very grateful and thankful for.  Life should not be taken for granted.  Must remember that and use my given time to advantage instead of just wasting it. 

The other day I'd bought a small pack of baby asparagus (in season at the moment) think it was 2 packs for the price of one or something, so bought one for me and one for B.  B said he didn't want any, so I cooked and ate 'my' pack.   Later B asked me what they were like, I said they were lovely.  "What did they taste like?" he asked.  "They tasted like asparagus". I replied - there not really being any other answer I could give. 
Which reminds me.  Believe it was you Cheesepare who planted some asparagus spears a few years ago. By now they should be old enough to start picking.  Did they grow well, are you managing to get a crop and enjoying them?  And do they crop well?

Remember my Dad growing asparagus, but can't recall ever being given any to eat. Perhaps considered too much of a luxury for a child.  However, do remember my mother using the 'asparagus fern' to tuck into sprays of the sweet peas I used to grow for her.  Maybe this 'fern' is a different plant, but always believed it was the asparagus that went onto grow the tall fronds when left unpicked. 

Suddenly memories of my dad's garden come flooding back.  He was a wonderful gardener, and even during the war still found places to grow flowers (the rest of the garden taken over by fruit and veg). He grew flowers that I never see in gardens these days such as Canterbury Bells, Burning Bush, Hollyhocks, Larkspur, and others whose names I never knew but would still recognise if I ever saw them again.  He also grew the most wonderful roses (we lived in an area known for growing good roses), and most of these had wonderful perfume.  Like veggies today (grown for looks but no taste) roses today seem to be grown for appearance only, and by doing so have lost all their scent.  Much can be said of most flowers.   Even the indoor (forced) hyacinths I grow at Christmas don't seem to smell as strongly as they used to.  But at least they still have a little scent left. 

Am still not quite 'with it' when it comes to writing my blog, so hope you will forgive my lack of recipes today.  Give me a few days and I should be just about back to normal.  At least managed to get a good night's sleep last night (first for several days), and so feel less tired now.  Not tired at all really, but come this afternoon may suddenly 'flop' again.  No appointments, days out, or anything 'important' to do this week, so should be able to easily drift through it.  Mind you I do enjoy the adrenalin rush I get when I have a marathon 'cook-in', it's just the 'down-drop' I get afterwards that annoys me.  Never used to be as bad as this, but then was never as old as I am now.  Old age has its limitations I suppose, but then I never allow myself to think I'm 'old'.  Inside I'm still young. It's my 'wrapping' that is now showing signs of age.  Just let's hope it holds itself together for a few more years. 

I'll find it very pleasing if you can all join me again tomorrow, send in a few comments, things like that.  You make my day.  Hope to see you then.  TTFN.