Friday, March 14, 2014

How Times Change.

After watching 'Famous, Rich and Hungry, have to say that I'm now feeling very guilty when about to start my blog.  There I am, all ready to rattle on about a delivery today from Donald Russell, and the supper I made for B tonight, not to mention starting a menu for a week ahead.  Then I watch how so many people are struggling to cope on a very low income.  The only way it would make any sense to me is to up sticks and go and live in a shabby bedsit for a month or two, having only money that might be able to be claimed on benefits (supplying the money myself of course).  Only then would I be able to find out how difficult it really is, and if decent meals can be made using foods allocated from the foodbanks.

Have to say though, that when the price of some of the meals made in the above series had been given, it does seem that good food could be provided for less cost.  As ever, it is the lack of cookery skills and knowledge, and not always shortage of money, that can make all the difference between eating well or suffering from malnutrition. 

Putting the above issues aside, am still reluctant to enthuse about planning a week's menu, but have to say I was highly amused when I discussed this with my Beloved and asked him to write down the meals he'd like me to make for him, but - I stressed - they might not be made in the order given, as I would need to work out the least expensive way to make them (using leftovers for the next meal etc).

Within five minutes B came into the kitchen with a beaming smile, clutching a big piece of paper in his hand where he had written down 10 different dishes.  After a quick read through reminded him that he'd left off some that I know he enjoys, so we added those too.   I now have 15 meals that will please my lord and master.  The strange thing is that although I'd probably have made them all for him anyway (I always ask him each day what he'd like for his supper, and everything on the list is made regularly), being 'allowed' to make up his own list (to be cooked in any order I choose),  seems to have given B real pleasure, and maybe more of a feeling of control over what he eats (but then he always has but never realises it).
He almost patted me on the head, when he kindly said he would leave it to me to decide what puddings/desserts I would make to accompany his meals.  Already I was feeling like Mrs Bridges/Mrs Patmore, maybe even Mrs Beeton. 
I asked him for suggestions - the first was trifle.  The problem with this is it doesn't freeze satisfactorily, so usually have to make a least three trifles from the one batch, meaning three consecutive days of eating the same dessert (something I don't like to happen).  Most other desserts will either keep well in the fridge for a day or two, or can be frozen.  But B loves trifle (as long as it has glace cherries, angelica and flaked almonds sprinkled on the cream - because that's how his mother made it).

Was intending to give the list of B's menu, but feel that it would seem as though there would be no sign of thriftiness, and that's what this blog is supposed to be about.  Of course I do sometimes feel smug when I have managed to serve a really good meal that didn't cost a lot, but this due only because I've been very frugal at other times. 
There are many times when s meal can cost not much more than 50p for one serving, yet another cost as much as £2-£3.  Yet when we average out the cost of a week's meals, probably one portion would be around £1.50, and usually less.   Even that I feel is too expensive (if cooking for two), but as I tend to eat less than B, not eating much meat, preferring a veggie diet, then my meals are always less costly than B's, so putting them together, works out less than £1.  Even less if I tried harder, but at the moment don't need to.  But at least have learned how to, if the need arises, and that's like any other craft.  Once we know how to do/make things,  we don't have to keep on doing them. It's a bit like riding a bike.  Once back in the saddle we soon steer a straight path. Like elephants, we never forget, and when times are hard, we would then at least know how to cope.

We had a delivery today from Donald Russell, and so was able to thaw out a pack of lamb's liver for B's supper (served with bacon, halved small potatoes, and - instead of white cabbage, served steamed shredded Chard). 
Added to the meat/fish already in the freezer (So why did I order more?  My excuse is because they had some extremely good offers this month) we now have enough meat to keep us (mainly B) going for a good twelvemonth, although if a really good offer comes along in a month or two I may take that up as well.

So - at the moment - it really is 'goode food' being served.  Quality meat with organic veggies.  Can life get better than this for B.  There I times he seems to feel he's died and gone to heaven when he sits down and eats his supper, certainly he gave that impression yesterday when he had those devilled kidneys. 
Perhaps worth a reminder that this is happening ONLY because for two months did not spend my food budget  (other than about £25 over the ten weeks).  And this because I do keep a goodly supply of basic ingredients in my larder.   Suppose it is the  'what you do with what you've got', and always 'use what you have, not buy more until it's gone' approach that works the magic.  And years and years (and years and years) of a pretty strenuous (at times) learning curve.  In the end, experience counts. One way or the other.

Agree with Marjorie that old cookbooks (pre convenience and supermarket days - AND the metrics!!) always seem to have simple recipes, with not too many ingredients and easy to make.  Many of these dishes seem to have been almost forgotten, so perhaps time to bring some of them back. 
If there is any disadvantage it is that food now is far more expensive, yet - unbelievably - the percentage of a wage that is spent on food today is less than it was 50 or so years ago.  Perhaps, in those days, the rest of the income went on fewer things than we expect today.  Very few families owned a car, holidays (in this country) were inexpensive, clothes were bought to last (mended if necessary), no TV so no license to pay, food was eaten to keep us alive, with no snacking between meals.  No 'throw-away' society in those days, socks were darned, worn sheets sewn side to middle,  shirt cuffs and collars turned, and everyone seemed happy with their lot.  Those that wanted more would expect to take on extra work to pay for it.   How times have changed.

Janet, it's good to hear how your local school children are learning about gardening.  Let's hope that soon you are able to get a cookery club started.  Maybe the school could start one?

Although sent as a comment via an earlier blog (so not shown in the most recent one), there was a bit of 'food for thought' sent by Paid In Chickens (welcome), who said that giving up smoking was easier than giving up sugar. 

The problem with every addiction (alcohol, smoking, drugs etc) is that these are very difficult to give up.  Once this has been done, if they are left well alone, and temptation avoided,  then almost certainly there is no more problem.  The difficulty with food is that often just eating can become an addiction, and if we managed to stop eating for a few days we could probably stop altogether (then die!), but as we HAVE to eat, it's almost as bad as making an alcoholic sip a spoon of booze every day, or give a cigarette to someone who has given them up. 

Sugar is not too much of a problem if we keep away from it. But once it passes our lips, apparently the sugar switches off something in our brain (or maybe switches something on), that makes us want more (and more, and more...) and it takes a great deal of self control to stop after eating the first chocolate in the box, or the first biscuit in the packet (or in my case the first sandwich....).

At the moment am confining my sugar intake to that only in fruit, but it still makes me want to eat more (not one small clementine but five....).   The other day opened a small pack of low-cal bread and decided to eat it up as quickly as possible so that it wouldn't then be there to tempt me.  That didn't make any sense at all as using it for toast/sarnies over several days would reduce my calories each day, whereas eating the lot over two days would increase the calories.  But then I'm good at making excuses why I should be eating this, that or the other (in any large amount).

I was good today.  I'd hardboiled some eggs and decided to make myself egg mayo sarnies for breakfast.  Took out 6 slices from the small loaf, but decided to use only four and over-fill with the eggs so put two slices back.  First time I've done that.  At least eggs are protein and very filling, and for once did not want to follow by making myself another sandwich.   Maybe tomorrow I will have only two slices of bread (or none at all - I can always freeze the unused bread).

I say 'tomorrow', but that is now today as it is again just after midnight.  Normally I don't have time to blog on a Friday (coffee morning then Norma the Hair), but now writing late at night means this Friday there will be something to read.  Almost certainly will probably blog again late (Friday) evening for the Saturday read, but after that taking a day off, the next blog will be written Sunday night for the Monday blog.  Will remind you of this when I next blog (tomorrow evening). TTFN.