Saturday, March 15, 2014

Store Wars..

Well, sooner or later it had to happen.  With Morrison's offering discounts of over a billion pounds over the next three years, the other big stores - it is said - will be forced to slash prices to compete.

Said to be the biggest change in grocery shopping since the dawn of the supermarkets (over half a century ago), it is thought that the cost of everyday 'essential' could fall by up to a quarter as the four largest stores take on Aldi and Lidl.

In Friday's newspaper it showed comparative prices for 16 items from the four large stores plus Aldi and Lidl,  and perhaps not surprisingly, Sainsbury's total turned out to be the most expensive (except for one item that matched the other four largest stores - only Aldi and Lidl were cheaper, these matching each other).  The store that sold the items for the lowest total was Lidl (saving £8.46p).

What wasn't mentioned was how many of the larger stores are running a scheme whereby they give money back if items bought were sold cheaper at one of the other large stores - in fact Tesco have done this several times with my order (sending me a redeemable voucher to use when next ordering on line).   If every store is now having to slash prices, this may change. 

It bugs me when I think that if stores are able to cut prices by (say) 25% and still make a profit, my feeling is if they can afford to do it now, why didn't they do this before?  Especially during the recession and the way many people now have to choose between spending their money on 'heat or eat'?  But I suppose this is how business works - if people want (need) something badly enough, then up the price.  Supply and demand they call it.

As you can gather, I'm in a confused state of mind at the moment.  My heart is telling me to write only about cutting costs, while my fingers keep tapping the keyboard rambling on about buying 'quality meat and organic veg'.  The two don't go together.  Or do they? 
Over the months am hoping that I have been able to prove that they do - in other words spend less but this leading (eventually) to better meals.  Suppose in a way I have tunnel vision re this - having learned the tricks of the trade so to speak.  Knowing what is worth buying, but waiting until the best (and cheapest) time to do so.  In the meantime having deliberately (and it has to be deliberate or it doesn't count) saved the money for the purchases.

This still leaves me feeling my pedestal is feeling very unstable and I'm liable to fall off it any minute now.  Need YOUR suggestions about what you would like me to write about.  Really cheap meals, or just easy meals, quick to make.  Or meals made with seasonal vegetables, or meals from times past, or whatever you wish.  Far better for me to give recipe that you want rather than me just fill the pages with something that I rather fancy myself that doesn't use ingredients you may have in store.
So please let me know our preferences.

Normally I don't read other blogs, but recently have looked at a couple of really thrifty ones, yet to me they are not as thrifty as they could be.  A lot has to do with which store is chosen when buying ingredients (there is always somewhere cheaper), and always it seems that free-range eggs have been bought when much cheaper eggs are on sale.  When living on the breadline I would never suggest spending three times more than we need if - nutritionally - we can get the same that much cheaper (and here I'm leaving the moral issue of free-range/barn eggs etc to those who can afford to make the right choice).

By now am hoping that all readers are aware that the majority of recipes I give are able to be adapted so that vegetables etc that we want to use up can be substituted for those that are.  Maybe I shouldn't take it for granted that most readers know enough about cooking to be able to do this without me spelling it out (although I do give suggestions).  Myself tend to work on the basis that sugar is sugar (and when baking it usually doesn't matter what kind of sugar we use as long as it weighs the same - well it works for me).  Carbohydrates added to a savoury could be anything from potatoes to pasta to rice, or couscous, quinoa, pearl barley, oats....even bread (some are grains I know but you get my drift).  Cooks with some experience will know what works and what doesn't, and if it doesn't then they'll know next time (but never throw disasters away, give them to the dog or eat them yourself).

Here is a recipe that uses salmon fillets (often sold fairly cheaply, especially at the end of the week on a fresh food counter).  Myself would use less salmon and make up the shortfall using 'white fish' (Tesco do a very reasonably priced pack of frozen 'Value White Fish' fillets). 
Besides reducing the cost, I've given the microwave instructions to make this casserole.  But if you prefer it could be cooking in a large frying pan on the hob.  No need to give this method as it is just a matter of cooking until veggies/fish is tender.
Normally don't buy leeks, so would substitute sliced onion.

Salmon and Sweetcorn Casserole: serves 4
2 leeks
1 lb. 9oz (700g) potatoes, peeled and cubed
half pint (300ml) milk (pref full cream)
half pint (300ml) vegetable stock
1 x 200g can sweetcorn with peppers, drained
1 lb (450g) skinless salmon, cut into cubes
salt and pepper
good dash Tabasco
handful chopped fresh parsley
Cut the leeks in half lengthways, then set aside.  Put the potatoes in a microwave-proof bowl with the milk and stock, then cook on High for 8 minutes or until they are just beginning to soften.  Add the leeks and continue cooking for a further 5 minutes.  Stir well and mash about half of the potatoes against the side of the bowl - this will help to thicken the stock.
Add the sweetcorn and salmon with seasoning to taste, then cook on High for about 3 minutes until the salmon is just cooked through.  Stir in the Tabasco and parsley then serve immediately.

It's just coming up to midnight, and as tomorrow (Saturday)I'm intending to have an early night will not be writing, so there will be no blog on Sunday (usual anyway), but will write late Sunday so the Monday blog will be published in the wee small hours ready for an early read.  Then the week will continue as normal (late blogging until I say otherwise). 

After a week of glorious weather, suddenly a heavy mist descended very rapidly a couple of nights ago, and since then the sky has been overcast with still some mist hovering around.  And how chilly it then felt.  The weather map showed most of England having a lot of sunshine again, except for one tiny area with fog again - and guess where that was.  Yes, right where we live.   So hoping it moves away so that we can again enjoy the lovely Spring weather while it lasts.

Wherever you live and whatever the weather - have a lovely weekend.  As ever, I hope the comments keep coming.  TTFN.