Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What a Load of Tripe!

If any of you have read today's (Wednesday 21st May) Daily Mail you will have guessed I have been in seventh heaven today.
Seems that Ed Milliband stated the day before that he spends just £80 a week on his family of four (two adults, and two sons ages 3 and 4).  Before I even continue I'd like to hope that he also gave his wife the credit for this, as am sure Mr M does not do all the menu planning, shopping and cooking all by himself.

Seeing the full page article entitled: "Feed your family of four for just £80 a week? What tripe!", I was enthralled, and have read it through many times just to make sure I'd got the facts right, as the journalist - who set out to buy food to feed the 'family of four' (remembering two of them were very small children), had great difficulty. 

The high street shops were priced way beyond her budget, so she had to resort to shopping at Sainsbury's.  Her first attempt ended up with purchases costing £190 (double her budget) so she had to start again.  But then she normally spent £200 a week on her family of four (although her two children were 'ravenous' teenagers), so hadn't quite got into what she called 'the parsimonious way' of shopping.

What the writer ended up with was 'very dispiriting shopping - not to mention eating....and while fried fish supper was possible, oven chips are not, so expect rumbling tummies.'
Final words were: ' exist on such a stringent budget, a 'waste not, want not' attitude would be vital. Every bone cut from the meat must be made into soup, every bit of cold meat recycled into pies, and your larder stuffed with cheap proteins like pearl barley'.  And there's more.  So worth taking a look at the article on the Daily Mail website.

Maybe some of the above has a point, but then we are given a list of what can be bought for £80 (to fit in with the 'menu' that the writer had chosen to feed the family of two adults and two small children.  Am presuming these were Sainsbury's prices, and so I checked these against Tesco's.  No brand names were given, and so I did not cut corners and choose the 'value' prices, but the branded products that most 'middle-class' families would choose (if they could afford them).

Suffice to say that the total of products shown came to £78.73p,  but the Tesco website with exactly the same purchases (and in one or two instances I 'bought' a slightly larger amount, as it worked out cheaper), came to just £62.61p - a saving of £16.12p (and a great less if I'd chosen the cheaper 'value' range.

Everyone shops differently, and possibly had the writer had more time to work things out she too might have chosen different products. 
Her menu for the week was suppers quick to prepare, healthy family favourites, such as pasta with meatballs, a chicken stir-fry with rice, grilled pork, a selection of hearty salads, a chicken casserole, and fresh fish once a week.   Later in the article a mention of a Sunday roast (chicken). 

What intrigued me was the purchase of a whole chicken (for the roast?), and then 3 chicken breasts and 4 chicken legs (did she mean chicken quarters, or drumsticks?).  For a roast, casserole and stir-fry, it would have been cheaper to buy two whole chickens, and use some of the roast for sandwiches instead of buying ham for the children's lunch.  And just think of the stock that could be made from the carcases.

The young children's lunches to be made from cheddar cheese, ham, with apples and bananas. Presumably the cheese/ham to be made into sarnies, perhaps with salad. No mention of buying any butter or spread to put on the bread.
Some odd purchases - 3 fillets of plaice (£8.06p), yet four breaded cod or haddock fillets could be bought for £5 (leaving money over to buy those much needed oven chips!).

A bag of salad (£1.50) is another waste of money.  Far better to buy an iceberg lettuce (50p) as there is much more lettuce and it keeps far longer. The concentrated apple juice bought for the children am presuming they take this for their school lunch. So happy to discover that the listed 3.5ltrs of this juice (£4.80p) is more expensive that that sold at Tesco - theirs being 4 litres for £3.50p.

The good thing about an article such as the above is that it makes us ask ourselves questions.  Could we manage on £80 a week?  And if not, why not?  If we can, then what would we choose to buy?
Many readers probably feed a family of four on less, so already know the answers. 

Although it may seem I'm criticising the purchases as given in the article, am hoping it doesn't look that way, but if it does, then think of it only as 'constructive criticism',for what other people choose to buy with their money is their own business.  Being grateful to be given the opportunity to take a different approach to 'thrift' is the right way to look at it. We can then come to our own conclusions, and hopefully learn a lot whilst doing so.

The Strepsils seem to be doing my throat good.  Certainly loosening the congestion, and the soreness has now gone (except first thing in the morning when I wake, but a few coughs and a box of paper hankies soon eases that). 

The weather is still staying fair although heavy rain has been forecast to spread across the country during the night, probably easing off by morning.  With another Bank Holiday weekend in a few days, let us hope the weather improves so that Morecambe can again be thronged with visitors.  It only seems to wake up and look like a proper seaside resort at times like this.

The Riverfood organic box had some interesting veg this week.  As well as the normal bag of potatoes, there was a box of vine tomatoes, a box of Portobello mushrooms, a bag of mixed salad leaves, a lettuce, 2 large red bell peppers, a big bunch of young carrots (with leaves intact - does anyone know if these leaves are edible?). Four courgettes, nine onions, a butternut squash, a kohl-rabi, and a fennel.

The other day my neighbour gave me a fennel that was given to her (that she didn't want), and I cut this into quarters and roasted it with other veg.  It ended up very sweet, and the aniseed flavour (that I don't much care for) had disappeared.  So fennel is now included in my list of favourite veggies.

Apparently our toaster popped its clogs when B used it early today, so he went and bought another one.  He gave me a slice of toast that he'd made using it, and it did toast more evenly.  I noticed that the large loaf of bread made only the other day is now down to the last two slices, so that means more bread needs baking tomorrow (Thursday - which is now today as it is a minute past midnight as I write).   B just loves home-made bread and I have to say - the rare times I eat it as I'm trying to keep away from carbos - it really is lovely, esp when toasted.   Because of the amount B eats (more than if a toasting loaf had been bought), it probably doesn't work out much cheaper than a medium priced loaf, but certainly does taste better and has none of those depressing additives.  Also, by extending the bread using just strong plain flour (and extra liquid), a goodly supply of rolls/baps go into the freezer and makes a change from toast. 

Am expecting to open my 'soup kitchen' again soon as B's sailing mate (Bob the Builder) will be having his lunch here again.  Am hoping it won't be soup every day as this isn't really suitable for warm days.  So maybe will make things like Cornish pasties, and Ploughman's Lunch as alternative choices.  Have to see what he prefers.  Or it maybe not just one, but his apprentice too.  He also brings his dog, and last time B decided to join in and eat too.  So it is almost like a real café.  With just one table.  Well, I can imagine there are more.   Do enjoy cooking for more than one again.

That's it for today.  Do hope some of you will be interested enough to read the above mentioned article and I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.  When articles like this appear, I keep looking on the letters page to see if someone like Frugal Queen has given her viewpoint.  She ought to be the one to show the newspapers readers how to make the most of £80.

Heard today that I'm now a great-great-grandma.  More a 'step' as it is my grandson's partner's son who has had the baby, so not genetically anything to do with me.  But as he considers himself to be a grandpa, then who am I to miss the opportunity of adding one more 'great' to my collection?

Made Beloved Fish Risotto for his supper, discovering I seem to have run out of (frozen) chicken stock (never have done that before, but am sure I have some lurking at the back of one of the shelves but couldn't be bothered to get everything out to find it).  Anyway, added more white wine, as well as the water the fish had been poached in, and as I'd also run out of salmon, added prawns to the white fish and smoked haddock.  Plenty of chopped parsley picked 2 minutes before chopping and adding at the end probably gave enough flavour that B didn't notice the chicken stock was missing.  He didn't say, and I didn't ask.   Today (Thursday) will be making more chicken stock using the dozen winglets and a couple of drumsticks that I've kept in the freezer just to make stock (winglets alone make excellent stock).  

Must finish although I'm in a rambling mood and could keep writing for hours.  Need my beauty sleep.  Back again this time tomorrow.  Hope you can join me then.  Bye for now. xx