Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Eat Better for Less?

Replying to comments before I get onto the nitty gritting of paying more for food, ending up eating better meals, but overall costing less.  At least that is my plan!

Lovely to hear from you Kathryn.  So pleased you have got rid of your stress, even though you have a busy working life at the moment. You didn't mention your allotment, but expect that not need much attention until March.   I do remember using Vim, and it was excellent.  Didn't know it could still be bought.  If so I will get some.
Regarding car insurance, do check with the various comparison sites as the insurance companies are very keen to get custom. My friend Gill did this and when her usual car insurance needed renewing, she got quotes from other companies, many almost half the price, and so she rang to cancel her insurance and when she told them the new quote they immediately reduced theirs.
My Beloved also had to recently renew his car insurance and went onto one of the comparison sites and got insurance at again half the cost of the original.  So very well worth asking around.  Money saved from this could possibly go towards buying a second-hand trailer, or at least paying for the MOTs.  Anyway, buying another (second-hand) car, it should have been MOT'd before being purchased.  If not, why not?

Not got many ideas about removing heavy grease Kathryn, but perhaps soaking in hot water with plenty of Fairy Liquid (or similar) might help.  It maybe will need more than one soak, and then a final wash in a washing machine.  If you can find 'Gloop' (as suggested by Pam) this might work.

Agree with you Alison, balancing expensive meals with budget meals does work well, after all we don'[t want too much of a good thing (to eat) all the time.  It's better to give our digestion a break now and again.
Do agree that milk deliveries work really well, especially if living alone or housebound.  The dairy products may be more expensive, but if they keep us away from the supermarkets, they not only save the money for transport, they also give us time to make more (and cheaper) meals at home.  Also no tempting offers that we might fall prey to.   Am myself considering going back to 'doorstep' dairy deliveries now one has just started in the area (he delivers to my friend next door).

Don't know if you have a freezer Sairy, but if so - do freeze some of your freshly bought bread in there.  If buying an unsliced loaf you could first slice half of it it to the thickness you require (thin for sarnies, thick for toast) and freeze the amounts you will need in small freezer bags.  Use the unfrozen half first of course, then use the frozen - this will thaw out very rapidly, and can normally be toasted from frozen.
As my Beloved has taken a fancy to my bread rolls in preference to me making a large loaf, I now bake about a dozen 'baps', then - when cool - freeze these in pairs, taking a couple out each day for him to eat with what he chooses.  Sometimes I also bake a small loaf at the same time to slice for toast, but B quite likes the baps toasted, so they have preference when baking.

Yesterday, for want of anything else to make - and needing to use up 'things', I made a 'Sairy favourite' by cooking the remaining half of a swede and mashing it with left-over cooked carrots  from the previous day, adding a knob of butter.  Seasoned well with plenty of pepper and some Welsh salt (this a gift), it really did taste good.  For B it needed a touch more magic, so I fried a finely chopped onion in a little oil then tipped the swede and carrot mash on top and let it fry until the base was crisp, then turned it over to crisp up the other side.  Of course it broke as I turned it, but as Jamie O says, this actually improves it as the crispy bits get mixed up into the mixture when it is flattened out again.   This was served with some hot sausages and a little jug of onion gravy. Plus a dish of watercress on the side (as B likes watercress and I had some).

Now we come to the organic veggie box delivered yesterday.  It cost more than I remembered (probably mixed up the price with the smaller box I used to have).  Even so at £20.45 there was a good variety and amount.   This is what was in the box:

9 tomatoes
a bag of watercress
a big bag of purple sprouting broccoli
2 large red peppers
bag of 9 baking potatoes
4 Portobello mushrooms
1 savoy cabbage
1 swede
2 large sweet potatoes
6 onions
8 carrots
9 parsnips

When I went to bed last night I spent a few happy minutes working out how long the above would last me, and could visualise the veggies making at least 40 meals, certainly enough for B for a month and some for me (as I'd use the peelings to make both vegetable stock and soup for own use).  So however much more the organic veggies have cost me compared to the much cheaper supermarket ones, it still works out at only £5 a week.

Now then, with my Donald Russell meat offers, that always make more meals than they suggest, cooking this very best quality still keeps the price of meat down to less than £10 a week (and this can work out a lot less when I occasionally serve B a vegetarian meal).  So am now at the middle of my 'supreme eats' ladder that moves me one rung further up as being able to serve both organic (and extremely tasty) veggies, with good meat for just £15 a week seems to be low enough cost to call it 'budget priced', yet at the 'Michelin star' level of eating (if you ignore the presentation and silver service).

Obviously there are other foods we eat during the day, but porridge for breakfast (B's choice at the moment) is very low priced,  I don't eat breakfast, just 'brunch' - this being a big mug of home-made soup.  B may have a bap for lunch (but he's working with his friend at the moment so is given a Mars Bar) and apart from a few mugs of coffee we both have during the day, the main meal is supper (and from now on will probably be a lot more 'meat and two' veg, than the normal curries, spag bol, and chilli con carne (well I have to use up the green veggies before they stop being 'fresh'.)

If this works well, and I have enough money left over from my normal (supermarket foods) budget, then I will begin having a doorstep dairy delivery.   Between the lot of them, this should keep me away from the supermarket, almost forever.  All I would then need to buy are the 'top-ups'  flour, etc for baking (cakes, breads, scones, biscuits etc).  Not forgetting sausage, bacon...and maybe a few other things I can't think of at the moment.  It all sounds so simple, but will it be? 

Thankfully, I've plenty of flour (of all kinds) that will keep me going for at least a couple of months (if not longer), also about a dozen packs of bread mix (both brown and white), that will - each time - be extended with some extra-strong bread flour.   One extended pack makes enough bread to keep B happy for at least a week (if not longer), and as I am keeping away from carbos  he can eat the lot.  As I said above,  surplus bread is frozen so there is never any wastage.    So the bread mixes will last for at least 3 months before needing to purchase more.

Since I now seem to be returning to our traditional meals (meat and two veg etc), feel there is a need to provide B with something to snack on, and have decided - as I have quite a lot of dried fruit in the larder - to make a heavy fruit cake that will keep for ages when well wrapped.  Also some Fork biscuits, and make up some scone mix so that I can bake a few scones when the oven is on for something else.  Also need to make marmalade (that I didn't make yesterday). 

However - today B has asked me to make him a Tagine, a recipe he has chosen (along with about a dozen others) from a Tagine cookery book (a Christmas pressie).   So - as I do have chicken thighs in the freezer, and all the makings, this is what he will have for his supper tonight. 
Tomorrow I really must make a meal that includes the purple sprouting broccoli as I've never cooked that before (or even eaten any before), so am looking forward to using it. 

As you can tell from the list above, most of the veggies are long-keeping so it's only the watercress that needs using first (B loves watercress and will eat it up as a sandwich with the baps), plus broccoli, the rest should keep well.   I've still got a lot of onions and several banana shallots, plus a few carrots from supermarket purchases, one cauliflower and a head of celery, some mini-peppers and a few vacuum packs of beetroot.  A handful of sugar-snap peas (for B's stir-fry), oh, yes, still al lot of a hard white cabbage left to use.  About 12 potatoes that have begun to sprout, and a few small potatoes (that I keep in the fridge), so I could have kept going for a week (or so) longer without the organic delivery.   But as my third organic box is to be 'free' (well, that was the offer given to me over the phone so it had better be), it seemed worth starting deliveries again.

The best thing about this veggie box is that it has made me think a lot harder about what meals to make.  No longer will it always be B's choice, but - for once - MY choice of what I'll be making as I need to use the veggies while they are still fresh, AND make the most of them.  This has given me a new outlook, no longer is cooking going to be quite as boring as it has been lately.

With the veggie box came a card with recipe on one side and a letter from the farmer on the other. The recipes were intended for seasonal veggies in the box, although my box did not include Jerusalem artichokes (not every box does - it depends what is grown in what region I suppose).
The letter was informative, because it told how weather conditions have affected the supply of certain veggies, so readers who buy from farmers markets might be interested to know that "the mild weather has brought leeks, kale, cabbages and cauliflower ahead of schedule; great for now but leading to potential shortages in March and April.
Spuds and onions are fine, right on plan, but carrots will be short (they never really recovered from a dry summer and were more affected by carrot and root fly than planned)."

It could be, because I use a lot of carrots, I may need to purchase more from the supermarket when I run short.  But as I still have quite a few from past purchases (they keep for ages when kept in the bag they were packed in AS LONG AS THE BAG HAS BEEN SPLIT A BIT TO LET THE AIR IN (or they turn soggy and start sprouting hairs. and out of the bag they begin to wither)  it's a matter of waiting to see if I can make do with what I've got, what has been delivered etc.  There should always be some other vegetable to eat, it doesn't always have to be a carrot (I tell myself).

As B is quite fond of pasta dishes (well, spag bol anyway), think that this recipe might be just the job for both of us.  Instead of the normal broccoli, could use the sprouting purple.  B loves walnuts and as they are said to be very good for lowering cholesterol, they would be good for me also, even though I don't care much for the flavour.

This is a recipe that I've marked as already given, but it is worth a repeat. I don't have the creamy blue chees, but do have a bit of stilton left and some Philly cream cheese, so maybe will use both mixed together.
Broccoli and blue cheese Pasta: serves 2
7 oz (200g) pasta penne
8 oz (225g) broccoli florets
2 tblsp olive oil
4 tblsp walnut pieces
4 oz (100g) creamy blue cheese, cubed
salt and pepper
juice of half a small lemon
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions, and 4 minutes before end of cooking time, add the broccoli.  When cooked, drain but reserve a cup of the cooking water and set aside.
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the walnuts over low heat for 1 minute, then add 4 tlsp of the reserved liquid to the walnuts, followed by the cheese.  When this has melted add seasoning to taste, and finally add the lemon juice (again to taste),
Tip the pasta and broccoli into the above-made sauce, tossing well so that everything is coated, then serve immediately.

You know, I think I might make the above for our supper for today.  B can have his Tagine tomorrow (my excuse being the chicken thighs hadn't thawed out in time - well they wouldn't anyway as I'd have had to thaw them in the microwave).   Now must just look up how to cook purple sprouting broccoli (do we cook/eat the green stalks and ribs or only the purply bits?).   Tomorrow will let you know if all went well.   I just LOVE having some new ingredient/produce to work with.  That is the joy of cooking. Hope you all agree.

Please join me again tomorrow, and by then will have found more purple broccoli recipes to tempt you with.  Enjoy your day. TTFN