Friday, May 02, 2014

Viewing the Wider Picture

Feel I should apologise for yesterday's rather confused blog.  My mind is never as clear at night as first thing in the morning.  Problem is that I use 20 words when one would do.  All I was hoping to prove was that if we were trying to manage on £5 a week, but able to spend £10 this would buy enough food (and a lot more variety) that could last longer than 14 days.

However, had a serious talk to myself today, and pointed out that the idea is to cope on £5 a week and THAT'S ALL I could spend.   So today am explaining what I would buy for this firs week (some products would last a second week), and see what happens next.

My first choice would be four pints of milk (not semi- as I could then dilute it a bit to make it go further.  Next would be eggs.   Unable to afford the tray of 15 eggs (9p each) I'd have to settle for half a dozen of the same Value eggs (89p tray), sadly the same eggs as in the larger tray but time working out at 15p each.   You see what I mean about being able to save money when we shop for several weeks in one go.

My next purchase would be a 1 kg bag of Value porridge oats (75p).   The Scots make their porridge with water and a pinch of salt, so diluted milk could be used.   Enough oats to make breakfast every day for a month.  Oats could also be used for extending certain dishes as spag. bol, or thickening some soups, also making oat cakes.

With a loaf of bread for 45p (20 slices and as often the crusts are fairly thick I tend to carefully slice these through to give me two extra sliced - this is called being thrifty).

With at least one can of baked beans (24p) at least I have breakfast sorted.  Either porridge every day or alternated with poached egg on toast or beans on toast, or the latter two could be eaten as a light lunch (with this budget, all meals have to be counted as 'light').

Myself would choose Value spaghetti as it is one of the cheapest of all the carbos (20p for 500g), a kg of rice (40p) works out the same price but as it weighs more would last twice as long.  If not eaten everyday the pasta would last two weeks.

So let's recap.  The milk, eggs, bread and baked beans total £2.88 (that's a little more than half the budget spent already, and these would need replacing each week.
The good news is that the spaghetti and porridge oats will last a further week (oats even longer) so the 95p they cost can be spent on something else.

With about 10 small sheets of paper surrounding the keyboard, each with lists of foods and their prices, it could be I'm not adding up correctly, but shouldn't be much out.  Seems I still have £1.17 left and this would go on two carrots (16p), one onion (16p) and a tube of tomato paste (40p).  A chunk (approx. 1lb) of hard, white cabbage (25p), could last more than a week, and be used in several dishes. 
So far products bought add up to £4.80.  A pack of mushy peas might be worth buying (15p) or a pack of 10 stock cubes (20p).

What to do with what I've got is the next puzzle.  Breakfast already sorted, looks like the 'light lunch' could be beans on toast (if porridge for breakfast),  or a poached egg.   (If not, these could be the 'light supper').  Main meal of the day (eaten at lunch time or supper time) would have to be the pasta, with a vegetarian 'bolognese' sauce added made with finely chopped/shredded cabbage, carrot and onion, some tomato paste (diluted with a little milk to make a sauce. 
Another main course dish would be vegetable soup (carrots, onions and cabbage, hopefully adding extra taste by way of a stock cube - if bought). Canned mushy peas (16p) diluted with milk can make a good pea soup if not needed as a veg in their own right.

Not the best of suggestions when it comes to meals I admit, but once the eggs/milk/bread have been replaced, then I would look to spending the remaining money on store-cupboard items like split peas (53p for 500g) or pearl barley (55p for 500g), better still rice (40p for 1kg).  Lentils would be good but they cost twice as much (£1.09 for 500g).

As soon as I could possibly afford it I would buy a 1.5kg bag of carrots for 89p as these work out much cheaper per carrot (by weight).  Same with onions (63p for 1kg pack).  Also a pack of Beanfeast mix (spag.bol or Mexican chilli).  Goes without saying I'd also hope to eventually buy a tray of 15 eggs.

A 1.5kg bag of flour (45p) would prove more than useful, and although the eggs, milk and beans provide protein, I'd be wishing to add canned tuna (49p) or pilchards (55p), and certainly chicken whether whole or in portions (2 kg bag of frozen chicken portions -drumsticks and thighs - work out at only £1.75kg and as at least a dozen portions, this means could make a dozen meals plus plenty of chicken stock - and chicken fat.
Worth mentioning fats. If buying canned tuna/sardines, then buy these in oil, then the oil can be used for frying something 'fishy' such as fish cakes made with canned fish, egg and breadcrumbs. Otherwise I'd buy a 250g pack of lard for frying (also makes good pastry and oat cakes), and 1kg of 'soft spread' (for sarnies/baking) at £1.35p.  Both enough to last several weeks. 

Hope the above gives a more concise picture of what I would buy if my budget was £5 a week.  If it was the £1 a day challenge, that would mean £2 more pounds in the kitty to spend.  My mouth is almost watering at the thought.

Once we begin to take a wider view of our purchases, not just the same things each week, but planning to buy products that last longer (two weeks, three or even a month or more), then we can slowly begin to build up a useful storecupboard, and eventually have enough in there to keep us going without having to shop at all.  Plus a tray of 15 eggs and a couple or so packs of dried milk (or UHT milk) hardly any reason to shop is there? 

There have been glaring omissions.  No cheese.  And I LOVE cheese.  But eventually we will have saved enough money to buy some.  Keep an eye open on the reduced shelf for often there are soft cheeses there that are close to their sell by/use by date, and sold very cheaply indeed.

Potatoes haven't been mentioned in the above list, the fresh are too expensive to include, as are the instant potato.  Canned new potatoes are cheap enough but this time not enough money left to buy any.
Think it was in the '70's that there was either a lorry drivers strike or crop failure with potatoes, but for several weeks there were shortages, and the price rocketed sky high.  Until then, potatoes had been served with every main meal, and depending on the meal either roasted, mashed, as 'jacket's or just plain boiled.  The round Caroline rice was cooked to make rice pudding, and short macaroni also cooked either as a savoury (macaroni cheese) or as a pudding.  In those days pasta and rice dishes were rarely cooked in this country.  Until the strike.  These then took the place of potatoes and a whole new range of Italian and Indian dishes began to be served in the Goode kitchen, and how the youngsters loved them.
When potatoes were in good supply again and the price back down to what it was, we never wanted to eat them 'plain boiled' again (and since then never have).  Only as 'mash' with butter and cream. 

We don't eat many potatoes even now.  Myself avoid them as they are a carbohydrate (not good for my diet), and B prefers either new spuds boiled in their skins, or 'crushed' and fried,  roast potatoes and sometimes a jacket.  At least half his meals during the week are served with rice or pasta.

The menu above is very frugal and certainly not very interesting or well-balanced, but after the first week things can only improve (because we have food left to use later, more variety of foods can be afforded), and even eating only the ones mentioned we certainly wouldn't starve.   As always, my mind goes back to the past, especially wartime.  Although B's brother was in a P.O.W. camp, even though food was barely enough (if that), in the concentration camps most prisoners were almost starved.  Most of us have seen films of the prisoners who were just skin and bones, not any flesh on them at all.  Yet many survived and lived to a great age (some into their nineties and probably beyond).  So if we have to live on short rations for several weeks, even months, we will still be better fed than many people during war-time.  And for that we should feel very grateful. 

But that was then and this is now and things change.  With so much variety of foods on sale it shouldn't be difficult to find enough to last us the week even if we have only £5 to spend.  It would be good if some of you could check prices in your own stores to see if you can come up with a better selection than that above.   Am sure Aldi could knock a £1 off the total, so that means even more in our shopping basket. 

Lovely comment from you Sarina.  Unfortunately B doesn't much care for bulgar wheat or couscous but I eat it often.  These are quite a bit cheaper than many other grain products, but at the moment I've selected the cheapest.
Tomorrow I'm hoping to go out with Norris and call in at the butchers and ask him if he can supply me with some goat meat.  I've long wanted to try some but kept forgetting. 

Did anyone watch Heston B's new programme yesterday evening?  I'd just made myself a salad that included halved roasted peppers (from a jar) that I hadn't chopped up and after spearing one with a fork while watching TV, and just sliding the fat end of the pepper into my mouth, then Heston appeared on the screen dangling a sheep's testicles.  These looked exactly like the pepper I was just about to bite into (only a different colour).  Quite put me off my supper.

Are you sure it is the elderflowers that are out Hazel.  It could be the maytrees in bloom (some have pink flowers, some have white).  The elder doesn't usually bloom until midsummer, but then everything is flowering early this year.  We need hot sun for the elderflowers to develop the 'yeastiness' that helps to give the bubbles in home-made elderflower 'champagne'.

As you say Mary (Perth), it can be a hard job paying off a debt.  Much of the time people can only afford to pay the interest, and what can often happen is that the money paid back can add up to more than twice what was borrowed, often a great deal more (depending on the interest charged), with the original amount still being owed.
It's not surprising that there is often very little money left to buy food, for this is the one 'budget' that is what I call 'flexible'.  When more money is needed to pay a bill, then it is the food budget that is raided, and what has not been mentioned is that although the £5 a week should be enough to feed one adult, a child would need a much better balanced diet that could cost more.

Listening to the radio today heard that 'Any Questions' was on Radio 4 tonight (from Bristol) and one of the panel was Jack Monroe (aka a girl called Jack).  Was not able to listen to it this evening, but believe it will be repeated around mid-day (or 1.00pm) on Radio 4 tomorrow, with 'Any Answers' following.  I believe much of the debate is to be about food and food poverty, so am looking forward to listening to it on Saturday.   This will be tomorrow as it is still Friday, and am publishing slightly earlier this evening.    Probably taking tomorrow off (as I usually do), but this time also Sunday (being a holiday weekend) and return to the comp to type my next blog late Monday evening as the Tuesday blog.  Hope you all have a pleasant bank holiday, weather set fair except for an occasional and light shower on Sunday in some areas.  Still supposed to be very cold at night, but warmer during the day.   Keep those comments coming and also your suggestions of how to spend that £5. TTFN xx