Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Eat Better For Less?

It's the time of year when I wonder whether it is worth keeping up with my resolve and using UP only what I have, or take advantage of some exceptionally good offers that I'm not likely to get again for many months.  Here I'm talking meat.

Well-reared, well-hung meat is so superior to any sold in supermarkets, and although my butcher sells very good meat (as do other local butchers), the one in Morecambe does buy much of his meat already semi-prepared, even chickens (I can no longer get free chicken carcases from him). So my meat (esp beef) is normally bought on-line (delivered frozen).

The great advantage of using quality cuts of meat (especially, and are I say it ONLY, the cheaper cuts) is that we can use less than a recipe would recommend.  Good meat has exceptionally good flavour, and a little of this goes a long way, especially when making a casserole.  So use a lot more veg, some good home-made beef stock, and a small amount of stewing meat and I can promise you that you'd never miss the shortage.  As the new TV prog. says - it's all in the taste.
Two ounces (50g) of quality meat works out no more expensive than (say) four ounces of the cheaper supermarket same, so it's a win-win situation.  Truly we can eat better for less cost.

Yesterday I put some of this (two packs of minced steak) into my slow-cooker and added to that some stewing steak that I had (admittedly) bulk bought when at Barton Grange.  Both have cooked to blissful tenderness, giving me lots of lovely beef stock to boot, so this morning I'll be decanting the cubed meat into small containers, ditto with the minced beef, then these will be ready to add to veggies or anything else I'll be making - this cutting down a lot of the cooking time, esp when it comes to making chilli con carne, or spag bol etc.

As I've only two packs of the minced steak still in the freezer, and have now the chance of buying more (of different cuts - all on offer, half price etc), am now wondering whether to do this or stick like glue to my challenge (don't buy anything else YET!).   Makes sense not to buy as I do have plenty of chicken, pork, lamb, still in the fridge, enough for at least three months I would think, PLUS the already cooked meat (mentioned above) that will be frozen.   So maybe this year I'll give it a miss and be a good(e) girl and keep my money in my purse.  Or on the other hand, if I order it now (offer ends 19th Jan) as I pay by credit card, the money wouldn't be taken out of my bank for four weeks, so it would be almost as though another month has gone by without me buying anything.
Still not sure what I'll be doing re this, so watch this space. 

Having said that, I'm doing something different re the veggie situation again.  Last year I began having a not-quite-regular delivery of organic veggies from Riverford.  These were exceptionally good until the bad storms last winter, this affecting the quality.  When I kept getting forked parsnips, and other misshapes, leading to very little veggie left worth using when peeled, I stopped ordering.

I've now been offered a 'tempter' to return, and so have decided to have just one large box of seasonal veggies delivered a month (the third one will be free as the 'carrot dangler').  Despite it being 'free' delivery, a small box of veggies (for two in family, enough for one week) did not work out as economically as a larger box that gave at least twice the weight but would last me at least 2 - 3 weeks, so a saving there.  By the third week the food was not quite as fresh as 'just picked', but during the winter many of the veggies are those that are picked earlier (potatoes, carrots, onions....) as they naturally store well.

The first delivery is at the very end of this month, so that means I will have been able to go 6 weeks without having to buy any (using up what I have), and from then on a quarter of the price of the delivery will be taken off my £10 a week allowance.  Hopefully, with the meat I have (I've already decided not to order more this time), all I'll need to top up is fresh milk and eggs.  Do have plenty of butter in the fridge/freezer, also cheese and sunflower oil.  Even bacon (I'd bought extra before Christmas not realising I'd already got plenty, so have frozen the surplus - bacon doesn't keep too long, but long enough for this challenge).

Of course I'm going to have to place an order with Tesco for the club Burn's Night, but if I do fall by the wayside and buy a few 'extras' for myself (but only if on offer and worth having) above and beyond the milk/eggs, these will go on a top shelf out of way.  Let us see if I can still keep enough self control when ordering not to topple off my pedestal, even a little bit.

We give a welcome to Lynne, who now lives in Australia.  It's always good to hear from readers who live in other countries as we can then get a chance of learning about (traditional) different dishes.  Myself would love to learn more about European meals as although French and Italian dishes are well known, and now Spanish, Greek and Moroccan, we never seem to have any cookery progs showing us Polish, Hungarian, or Russian dishes.  Is there a reader of this blog who lives in one of those countries?  If so, would love to hear from you.

Forgive the short blog today,  all because I stayed in bed because I was having lovely dreams (all about food) and if quick enough (after a trip to the bathroom that we old folk have to do in the middle of the night), can return to the same dream.   As B is working this week, he left without waking me, and it was 10.00am before I woke.   Yesterday B told me that there would be 3 week's work for him at the upholstery shop, although he may work only four days a week (he doesn't think he can cope with it full time).   So this may mean a late rise for me each day, especially if the weather has turned cold and I'm having good dreams.

Great fun yesterday after I finished my blog (that also a short one as the comp wasn't set properly and the page was magnified).  I emailed Steve to ask him to sort it out (he has a link from his comp now to mine), and he replied immediately asking me to sit and watch what he did.  It was really strange watching an invisible person use the comp.  There was a little 'chat box' where he then asked me if it was OK and I was able to type in a reply, but after checking the magnification/resolution had been reduced slightly too much and the printing was then a bit small (for my old eyes), so Steve corrected it while I waited.   Then  - like Goldilocks - it was perfect.  Should now be able to sort that problem out myself if it happens again.

One last thing - having forgotten to mention it above - there was an article in last Saturday's Daily Mail entitled "Yes, you CAN feed a family on only BRITISH food....but it'll cost £700 a year more.."
Basically this was buying only the 'fresh' that was grown/reared in Britain.  Comparisons made between the price of imported and the home-grown.  Of course many fruits and veggies that we buy ARE imported because they are not in season here.  So alternatives were substituted. 

Prior to World War II, our nation used to be able to live on all produce grown in this country, the only imports would be the more exotics such as pineapple, citrus fruits, grapes (although some of these could be grown in hot-houses, owned by 'the gentry', not available for the likes of the working classes).
There were other imported foods (other than fresh) that came by sea: sugar, tea, coffee, spices, dried fruits, rice... and a whole lot more, but 'the fresh' we grew here was aplenty.  Remembering also that in those days our meals were pretty basic (meat and two veg..., none of your curries, savoury pastas, chillis, pizzas....).
During the war, the young farmers went to war, and Land Girls took over much of the labour in the farms and fields.  A lot of land that used to grow different foods was then used to grow only the staple foods such as potatoes, carrots, wheat...  Onions were in very short supply! This led to the 'Dig for Victory' scheme where everyone who had a garden would dig it up to grow their own veggies.

Since our population has almost doubled since the war, we cannot now grow enough food to feed everyone so of course we do need imports,  trouble is we tend now to buy most of our fruit and veggies from supermarkets and rarely look at the labels.  Sadly, any British-grown tend to be more expensive.

Our government is now encouraging us to help our nation's industry by buying British, and to stop relying on so much imported food.  Their message was clear "if we all ate seasonal, British grown produce, the economy would be healthier, and so might we".  This makes sense when we also see that unless our nation reduces its obesity, we could very soon have major health problems.

Problem is the cost.  The newspaper gave comparative prices for many 'fresh' we buy, but it seems the prices could be different from one store to another.  The Co-op seem to have some lower prices for the British v imported.  Not much in it though.
About the only foods we do buy now without turning to the imports are fresh milk and eggs.  UHT milk is sometimes from France so read the pack before you buy)./

An interesting comment about root ginger..."I couldn't find British grown ginger...".   In my organic gardening mag. it said that if we buy a lump of root ginger that has some small fresh about-to-grow bits on it, and we remove these, still attached to a bit of ginger, plant them into soil, with some of the bud above the surface, they should grow and in several months will have made more roots.  I'm going to have a go at this.

The above article is one (and perhaps the main) reason why I've decided to buy from Riverford again. Could say the same about my supplier of frozen meat (all British meat).  With a bit of thought am hoping very much that these quality foods will be able to be afforded and STILL keep within my budget.  They did before, so why not now?  Watch this space to find out. 
If it works, and able to show how it works, then am hoping all readers will find they can then do the same and end up eating better for less.  

Will return tomorrow, so keep those comments coming - please.  I love to hear from you.  TTFN.