Thursday, May 01, 2014


All of a sudden we seem almost overwhelmed by articles, programmes, and radio chat about managing on a small amount of money.  A very small amount.  And despite rising food prices, this seems to get even smaller.
We hear about people who have to manage on £10 a week, and others who are trying to live on £1 a day.  Now I've heard about someone aiming to manage on £5 a week.  Presumably to feed one (but dare I say it - this could stretch to two if tackled the Shirley way).

It is of course very difficult if (say) £7 is all the money we have to lay out on food to last a week, with nothing in the cupboards to ease the situation - by this I mean just basics such as salt, pepper, maybe a few spices, ketchup, cooking oil....   But if we wished to do this as maybe an experiment or to help raise money for charity, we could start by buying £14 worth of food and making it last two weeks, and some it will last even three.

Maybe, striving to live on such a small amount of money may seem impossible if we expect to eat at least two, if not three good meals a day as most people do.  Eating a lot less doesn't mean we will starve.  How often do busy people just grab a slice of toast for breakfast, maybe eat a sandwich for lunch and sometimes miss supper because they are having an evening out with friends?  We have all done this because we choose this way.  Being forced to eat less and it seems more like a prison sentence than maybe a way to rethink the situation and turn it to our advantage.

Today I've been scrolling down the Tesco website to find out what foods can be bought cheaply and have made some interesting discoveries.  Some foods that seem really inexpensive are not when compared to something similar we can make ourselves - and from the foods that would have been bought from my list.
Unbelievable it may seem, but a jar of fish paste is no cheaper (per 100g) than if we bought the same fish that hasn't been messed around with.  Check out the price of sardine and tomato paste and also the tuna and mayo paste and see for yourself.  By adding the tomatoes/mayo to the chosen fish we can make much the same thing (without any of the other additives) and end up with more for our money.

Stock cubes are another item that people often buy, and those that are 20p for 10 cubes could be called good value.  However, with vegetables in the list we can make vegetable stock, and with the chicken we can make chicken stock, so if I needed an extra 20p, the cubes would not be bought.

Six free-range eggs for £1 would be a MUST for many people, but (to me) it makes more sense to pay 35p more and buy a tray of 15 eggs (£1.35p).  These would last at least two weeks. 
A 'value' loaf (white or brown) normally has 20 slices and costs only 45p.  So a fair few slices of scrambled egg on toast, or beans on toast, or even poached egg on beans on toast can be made during the week (value baked beans 24p a can).  After watching the repeats of Tenko, just a few crumbs and a couple of beans seem like a feast.   And - reminded of war-time rationing when we had one egg per person per week (and occasionally only 1 egg per person per fortnight), a tray of 15 eggs would feel worth more than their weight in gold. 
It's all a matter of perspective I suppose.  Don't expect much at all, and we may then be pleasantly surprised.

Milk is another item worth giving thought to.  Now that we can buy 4pints of milk for only £1, then it could be worth buying the full cream instead of semi-skimmed (same price).  At one time the cream used to rise to the top of milk bottles and could be siphoned off to use as pouring cream, but now milk is usually homogenised, and the cream won't separate out (although Channel Island milk is still old-style).  Although I normally buy the semi-skimmed, if on a tight budget I'd buy the full cream and then dilute it with water to make it go further. 

Canned carrots at 15p a can seem to be good value, but when the price for these is given as 97p per kg, when compared to a 1.5kg bag of fresh carrots costing only 89p then the fresh is the much better buy.  Trouble is, on a very tight budget, can we always afford to buy the smaller packs, when the larger ones can save so much money?

I've written out my list, pruning out the 'not-so-necessary', and it seems we could buy at least 25 different foods for just under £15, even though this does include some tinned veg.  Wish it didn't.  But is we switched a few items round to get the most for our money (larger packs etc) we can have all those carrots, and a few other useful items.  Many of these should last at least three weeks, so we can still feed ourselves for £1 a day and probably less.

Meat doesn't appear much on the list, as I consider eggs/milk to help provide us with protein, but do include some canned fish.   The cheapest tuna (cheaper than the 'value') is 49p for 185g can.  Pilchards slightly dearer, 55p for 155g, and the cheaper sardines most expensive of all at 50p for 120g.   However, this is only Tesco prices, and I know Aldi sell cheaper sardines (Eileen brought me some, bless her and they were very good value - think they were 45p a can).

If anyone wishes to see my complete list I'll include it in the blog over the next couple of days.  My selection won't be the same as others as we all prefer to eat different things.  But setting our preferences aside, we can at least work out what could be made from the list.   There are reasons for everything product/food on the list, and these will also be given.

Am expecting an outcry of 'well, having the money to pay for two weeks food, is not the same as having only enough money to buy for one week' and that is fair comment, but with the list we can pick and choose what foods we might choose to buy to keep within the tighter budget.   It's all a matter of how we wish to play it.

Before people start standing on their soap-boxes and complaining I haven't included tea or coffee or soft drinks - all I can say is drink water instead.  I do this quite a lot, even though I can afford to buy the more expensive 'makings'.  Life becomes much easier when we are grateful for what we have, rather than moan about what we haven't.  Many people, even in affluent countries, don't have clean water on tap, they have to drink bottled water.   I've drunk tap water in America and it smelt and tasted of swimming bath water!!!

Missed replying to Mary (Perth, Australia) yesterday.  Apologies for that.  Am sure animal hair will also deter slugs, and certainly any hair makes good lining for bird's nests.  When we brushed our Labrador when she was moulting, we used to tuck bundles of her hair in the bushes opposite our kitchen window and would watch the sparrows fly down and gather up mouthfuls to take up to the house eaves to 'feather their nests'.  I bet their babies were really comfy and warm.
Did our 'royals' manage to travel over to the west of Australia so you could get a chance to see them and their gorgeous baby George?  We have had plenty of photos of their trip to NZ and Oz, but mainly all were of Prince George.  He really is a lovely cuddly little boy. Very smiley - which is nice.

A welcome to Anna, and I too have thought it is my height that is wrong, not my weight.  Trouble is I was 5ft 11in and 10 stone (about right), and if I could have stayed like that, or even gained a bit more I would be 'normal'.  Now I think I should be about 10ft tall.  But can't have everything I suppose.

For some silly reason I believed that bluebells grew only in this country, so was surprised Margie, when you said there was a lot growing in a front garden near the outskirts of Toronto.  Were they growing in open ground, or under a lot of trees.  Here in the UK they always seem to grow wild in woodland, where they look their best in dappled shade.
We have quite a lot in our garden, some under trees and shrubs in the back garden, and more in the front garden, also around and under shrubs.  They spread quite rapidly, so each year we get more and more.  They are so beautiful, but no good as a cut flower and they droop almost instantly when cut, even when immediately plunged into water.

Was about to say tomorrow is the first day of May, but looking a the clock on the comp see it is already past midnight, so goodbye April.  How quickly the weeks fly by (we are still waiting for winter to arrive!!!).  The daffodils are just about over now, the tulips have another few days to brighten our lives, then these will all soon be removed from the tubs to be replaced with the bedding plants (geraniums and lobelia - these require hardly any attention other than watering).

Two interesting cookery progs today (both on the Food Network).  One at lunch-time was Ina Garten where she showed how to keep sandwiches fresh by laying them out on a baking sheet, covering them with damp kitchen paper, and then covering the lot tightly with cling-film.  She said kept in the fridge overnight they were perfect next day.  Am pretty sure this was exactly the same approach shown by Mary Berry in her recent cookery series. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Second prog I watched because the final episode of Law and Order UK was - for some reason - not shown, so I switched over to watch Guy Fieri's new series:  Guy's Grocery Games.  This was set in a supermarket and several chefs were given a challenge to cook a dish with food taken from the store's shelves.  Today the challenge was called 'Can Can cooking', where an Italian dish had to be made using only canned foods.  Although towards the end Guy did allow one item to be taken from the 'fresh' isles, andalso one herb.
I noticed one man used flour, so assume they had a few 'store-cupboard items they were allowed to use.
As ever, there were far too many squeaks and squeals to make the programme interesting to watch, I find this type of noise very distracting in a cookery prog.  Maybe we Brits take it all too seriously.

One recipe today using lamb mince.  Here in the UK we tend to traditionally flavour our lamb with mint or rosemary, but now we have different herbs and spices on the supermarket shelves,  this recipe is an even tastier way to use the minced meat.  Based on a Turkish dish where their bread is known as 'pide'.  This is baked in long flat loaves or in individual rounds. We could use Italian Ciabatta, or English 'babs', split and filled with the meat mixture.  An alternative is to fill pitta bread 'pockets'.

Lamb Pide: serves 4
1 tsp sunflower or olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
9 oz (250g) minced lamb
1 tblsp tomato paste
halt teaspoon hot paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
2 small Turkish breads (or rolls)
1 oz (25g) grated mozzarella cheese
2 tblsp chopped fresh mint
Put the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion until it softens, keep stirring as it cooks to prevent it browning, then add the garlic and cook for a further minute.  Add the mince, tomato paste, paprika, and cumin and stir-fry until the meat has cooked through.
Split the bread (or rolls) and place the bottom halves on a baking tray.  Cover with the mince mixture and sprinkle the cheese and mint over the meat.  Cover with the bread tops and bake, uncovered, at 220C, gas 6 for about 10 minutes, or until bread is crisp.  Cut each in half to serve.

That's it for today.  This coming weekend is the first of our Spring Bank Holidays (think we get another at the end of this month).  Let us hope the weather stays fair.  It will be Carnival time in Morecambe, and my Beloved is involved in something to do with pulling one of the safety boats along the road in front of the prom I believe.  Not quite sure what day, may be Monday.

Going back to the start of today's blog.  Am wondering if we are getting to obsessed with how much food costs, and what little we can buy for what might seem to be such a lot of money.  What it all boils down to (no pun intended) is what we do with what we've got.  And that I suppose takes experience.  One reason why mothers used to pass on all the hints and tips by word of mouth to their children while they were young, then helped them learn by trial and error as they grew older.  Now as just about everything is already made/done for us, younger folk haven't learned life skills to help them climb out of the black hole we are all falling into. 

Even though writing down a list of what could be bought for (say) £5 isn't much help unless the full story is told.  It's a bit like being given a lorry load of bricks and a few sacks of sand and cement. Those who know how could build a house. Me, I'd just walk away and leave it for someone else to sort out.  Or sit and read a book until I'd learned how to build my first wall (and one that didn't fall down).

It's now 1.00am, so time for me to go.  Hope you can send me your thoughts about the challenge of 'living on the breadline'.  Useful hints and tip would be much appreciated. 
Will be back tomorrow, late evening, for another session with this keyboard typing out my thoughts as they keep flooding in.  I never know what I'm going to say, my fingers just write it out.  Is that good or bad? Keep it simple it should be, but it never is.  Sorry about that. Bye for now. xx