Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Saving Time AND Money

My £10 challenge has not been discontinued Angela, it's just that the idea was to show how - during the first week - we could exist on that amount of money and still be able to build up a store cupboard. The next week we could buy the 'replacements', then - with the remaining money - buy more store cupboard ingredients so that meals could become more varied. The idea would be to continue in much the same way, so we would discover what are really inexpensive 'basics' (esp own-brands), eventually leaving more money to spend on quality 'fresh' ingredients.**** Am sure that we all have different ideas of what storecupboard items we wish to keep on our shelves, and some of the cheapest are exceedingly good value: pearl barley, split peas etc. What we do need is the knowledge of how to make good meals of such seemingly uninteresting ingredients. ****There seem to have been a spate of cookery progs about Italian dishes, and have to say that many of these are some of the most economical, and although I normally use Beanfeast Bolognaise (a vegetarian mix) to stretch out a small amount of 'real' minced meat, I like it so much that I often leave out the meat. As you know, the Beanfeast was included in the £10 challenge, as was Value spaghetti (the latter given as one of the best in a recent testing by a journalist and at only 29p for 500g what more could we wish for?). If an own-brand (cheap!) can of chopped tomatoes (or passata)was added to the Beanfeast, plus some grated carrot and a handful of porridge oats (also included in the challenge, then added to a whole pack of cooked spaghetti this - when served the Italian way - would make a meal for 6 to 8 people for - approx 25p - 30p a head. **** The Italian way of serving spag bol is not to pile the pasta on a plate then add a dollop of the meat sauce (as normally served in the UK)but to add the spaghetti to the sauce and carefully fold (toss) it together, the idea being that each strand of pasta has a coating of the sauce, so a little of the meat sauce can go a long way. Add more pasta to the basic sauce and you get more servings, each then working out even cheaper. Just how cheap could we make it? ****Moving away from this low-cost dish to something a bit more expensive, I have to say that I've tried making the Italian Gelato (ice-cream)this week and it is the best thing ever. No more expensive than - say - a Tom and Jerry Ice-cream, and a good deal less if we buy the cream when it is reduced. As it is so rich, we only need one scoop of Gelato anyway. To make this all we have to do is whip together a pint of cream (double or whipping cream) with a can of condensed milk, plus 1 - 2 tsp vanilla extract. When thick, fold in any fruit or flavouring you wish (it could be crushed biscuits, fruit puree etc) or just leave it as 'vanilla'. Pack it in a box (it makes a good litre) and then freeze it. It won't freeze rock solid like most home-made ice-creams (and thank goodness for that!), just nicely firm but 'scoopable', and - if you work it out cost-wise - when eaten after the 30p portion of spag bog mentioned above - together the two won't make that much of a dent in the food budget. It's all a matter of balance and averages. One cheap dish, one expensive dish, together make a meal that can still be affordable but with more than just a taste of luxury.. ****This week I'm going to make a big batch of pancakes as I've remembered that these are extremely cheap to make and freeze well. They can then be used either for savoury or sweet dishes. It was a recent mention of those retro savoury (filled) pancakes that put the idea into my head: "why not start making these again?" I told myself. Think about it, just a little of the bolognaise meat sauce would make a good filling (making the meat sauce go even further), and then the pancakes could be egged and crumbed to fry, or could be used like pasta - rolled round the meat with a cheese sauce poured over, grated cheese on top and baked off in the oven. ****A welcome to 'Anonymous' from Texas who used to live in Barrow (across the Bay from where we live). Do write again 'Anon' giving us a name so we can recognise you. **** There seem to be a lot of progs. on TV at the moment about food, mainly about what goes into the processed foods we buy, and often what we believe to be a home-produced British Dish (such as 'Lancashire Hot-Pot')is made from ingredients all over the world, and not one of them from this country. Personally, where the food comes from doesn't bother me that much, although I know it ought to. Trouble is home-produced foods, especially meat, seem so expensive now and why New Zealand lamb can be cheaper than British doesn't make sense when we think of the cost of freezing the meat then sending it - probably by boat - those thousands of miles to reach us. Every food that is imported seems to be cheaper than the same thing produced here. Why? ****As you say Sarina, autumn will soon be approaching, and I've already got the autumnal stirrings rising in my veins. Someone once said it was a true 'Earth Mother' (not sure what they meant), but do seem to feel the pull of nature as the weeks go by, even though spring-cleaning is more thought about than actually done these days. At least the autumn will give us free food in this country by way of the hedgerow berries, and this year it is said - due to the good weather we've had - that there will be an abundance of fruits, so we must all go out and gather as many blackberries, elderberries, bilberries etc, as we can (they all freeze well). ****Glad you saw the 'Make me a German' prog Margie. Do agree that their way of life is quite a good one. At one time we used to take in German students during school holidays, they had come (with others) to learn more about our language and customs. Have to say they were all extremely well mannered, and it amused me how they always took their outdoor shoes off the minute they stepped into the house and then left them by the back (or front) door in neat rows. We once had two male students (about 20 years of age) who lived in East Germany and one really did have a chip on his shoulder about how bad things had become now that the East and West Germany were back together again. What may have seemed a wonderful thing to have happened, did have repercussions, as - under Communist rule - East Germans all had work, a guaranteed wage and a place to live (even though it might be in a high-rise flat). The only thing they didn't have was freedom to move away from the country. Once East joined up with West, everything then seemed to fall apart in the East, and there was much unemployment, and no guaranteed housing, only what could be afforded. ****One of the lads who stayed with us was training to be a doctor and came from a fairly affluent family, so was expecting to move to England to work. The other was returning to an uncertain home. His father had lost his job, the lad had no job to go to, and they might have to leave their flat as they couldn't afford it. For him it did not seem that freedom was worth having, and have to say that I think I agreed with him. Is it better to have complete freedom to travel, or would it be better to know we have a secure future re work and housing? You could say that many people who now come from abroad to live here are actually getting all that. Admittedly some don't work, but they do get benefits. Which reminds me about a programme I saw last night about benefits. There was a lady there who seemed to have much the same 'disabilities' as I have, but it never crossed my mind to claim any 'disability benefit' for them. I just put my aches and pains and walking with sticks down to old age. The lady obviously didn't seem to need the money as much of it seemed to have been spent on 'bling'. There was an article about her in the Daily Mail yesterday - worth reading (am sure it can be found on the paper's website). ****As I've mentioned in earlier postings, one of the problems with cooking is the time it can take (mainly in the preparation), but considering how practically every other aspect of domesticity has some labour-saving device to cut down our work, you would think we would have more time to spare. And we do, for those who have hobbies will spend hours enjoying these, so perhaps we should consider taking on cooking as a hobby. ****Since I bought a cheap digital radio, I now spend more time in the kitchen as I can cook AND listen at the same time. This takes me away from the TV where I can't do much else that watch (or nod off), although I suppose I could go back to knitting as this can be done without looking at what we are doing. It was on the radio the other day when I heard a discussion about communication (or something), one lady saying how she did about 70 'Tweets' a day, 40 of them being celebrities 'as enjoying knowing what they are doing, even if only going to the shops'. She also admitted to spending quite a lot of time with Facebook. Presumably the other 30 were friends and acquaintances? Heaven help us if all we can find time to do is glue ourselves to the computer (or tablet or smartphone or whatever new thing has been brought out to take more of our money and time). I know that since I've now begun to blog intermittently instead of every day, I've given myself several more hours that I can spend on really useful things - like cooking cheaper and better meals, also have time to do some reading (research) in the garden while sitting and enjoyng the sun. I've been feeling so much more relaxed now that the pressure of writing every day has been lifted from my shoulders. Let us hope this means that I am now able to write something a bit more interesting. ****Returning to the £10 challenge. Although some foods are cheap enough, they are even cheaper when bought in bulk. Sugar is an example (yes, I know it's not that cheap but those who bake and make preserves may use a fair amount). Sugar has a shelf-life of forever, so worth buying it at the best price. The smaller packs work out at 99p per kg, but only 95p per kg when bought in 2kg packs. The best buy is the 5kg bags as then the sugar is only 80p kg. You may find rice works out cheaper (per kg) when bought in larger packs, but always check as there are some own-brands that work out cheaper, even when bought in the smaller packs. ****Normally, the dry foods such as pasta, rice, pearl barley, lentils, couscous...are sold in 500g packs (but often cheaper in kg - or larger - packs). By estimating we would use 50g for each portion/serving, then we get 10 portions to a pack. 'Value' rice I note is 40p a kg! That's 20 portions for 2p a serving, even cheaper than the spaghetti. So it's worth listing as many of these dried ingredients as we can think of, then work out the price per serving. All will be cheap, but some cheaper than others, and 'every penny saved is a penny earned'. Incidentally, 50g/2oz may not seem much, but when they've taken in water during the cooking process will double or treble in weight. ****Think I've written enough to keep readers happy for a couple of days. Norma (the Hair) day tomorrow, so I'll be blogging again on Thursday. We are still enjoying good weather, but fairly cloudy in our neck of the woods. Still warm, so let's make the most of it before the days get even shorter and the chill begins to return again. Who knows - if we've had a 'proper summer' for once, maybe we'll then get a 'proper winter'. Lots of ice and snow! All I can suggest is Be Prepared. Stock up the larder and freezer, and look forward to cooking - and eating - those lovely warming winter meals that are so very 'British' (even if the ingredients have come from other lands). Enjoy your day. TTFN.