Well its been a busy one mostly to do with housework but today I got to play a little bit.
Since OH not been working my shopping strategies have changed somewhat - I go into supermarkets but not for a big shop like I used to; I tend to shop around quite a bit as a result.I make a list of the items I would like and suss out the prices of things in the process for a later shop. If you have a list its much more disciplined because the rule is, that you buy nothing that is not on the list. Easier said than done. As a child my mum used to send us shopping with the list, so that she did not have to spend anymore than she really needed to. I also try to use local shops and a good butcher.
I also use the cheaper shops like Aldi and Lidl (they are very good on tinned goods) as well. I also use the pound shops and Wilkinsons. Freezer shops like Farm Fresh which is excellent and Iceland also play their part and for a family on a budget they are very economical. Its not just the frozen stuff they are keen on prices with they also have loads of other items. So I sort of cherry pick quite a lot from the different shops.
I have also found Asian supermarkets to be very good as well - my local one is very good for herbs spices oils and very large Naan breads 3 fo £1.29 which are twice the size of the supermarket ones and a lot nicer. They quite frequently have sugar on offer too or at least my local one does.
I ended up managing to get lots of bargains yesterday for turning into preserves of one description or another all for under £30.and that will more than likely last for a good two weeks and that which doesn't get used gets frozen. I was given some plums and pears by some of the girls I work with, so we have struck a bargain. With the plums have made 6 jars of Victoria Plum jam. The pears are going to be pickled, made into chutneys and bottled in syrup as well as mincemeat and I thought I might also have a go at a pear jam.
The pennies are a tad tight at the moment, but that is no reason to starve, you can live very well as long as you make informed choices about what you actually buy and I love cooking anyway so it is never a chore for me. Using up leftovers needn't be hard repetitive or boring. Left over mashed potato after sunday lunch - don't throw it turn it with the aid of a tin of salmon into tasty salmon fish cakes or alternatively if you have some vegetables left over make bubble and squeak. Not ready to use yet - freeze it and bring it out for a rainy day.
I have put a ban on anything that is bought pre-made, mostly on costs grounds, but also because my doctors have told me in respect of pre-existing medical conditions to eat very little processed food; and to buy and prepare from fresh wherever possible. Apparently its much better for my system to process.It is not only freshness of product but quantity as well - if I was to serve up the portions they serve in shops OH would think he was on starvation rations and go looking for seconds elsewhere.
I make my own jams they are used in pies and tarts, and also as a filling in a victoria sponge with some butter cream, on toast with ground rice or rice pudding you have to have the inaugural blob of jam. I also bottle lots of stuff its so nice bringing something down off the pantry shelf and using it. Bottled plums can be used in a pie or crumble also served with ice cream. There are various ways of using different things its just a matter of finding a recipe or recipes that suit your palate and you like.
If I buy biscuits they are always plain because they can be used as a cheesecake base, or with a chunk of cheese as a cracker; Most of what I buy has to be useable in different ways and earn its place on the pantry shelf - sometimes we just need to be introduced to those ways. I buy ingredients and then make something from them, using what I have to hand. Often its just the inspiration.
For instance earlier in the week I was peckish so went into the kitchen and threw together a scotch pancake mix, cooked them and then had with some butter and strawbery jam. All I used was some flour, an egg and some milk and I got more than you would get in a pack from the shop. Yes they were not symmetrical a little odd in shape but more than perfectly edible.
Well I acquired:
7lbs greengage plums
1/2 kg red chillies for drying (secret weapon in my pickled onions) £2.50
1 stone of pickling onions, £4.00
1 large net ordinary onions, £3.00
2 kg mandarin oranges for mandarin curd; £2.00
peaches for pickling, jam and chutney £1 for 5
lemons for more curd 3 for 50pence
2 large marrows 50 pence each (stuffed marrow is very tasty) but I also use this in picalilli,chutneys there is a recipe for Marrow rum I want to have a go at
french beans for the freezer 50 pence a pack
Celery 60pence each
5 bags tomatoes at 50 pence a bag £2.50 in the reduced pile
Then there was the veg for the week carrots, cabbage flowering broccoli, spinach for home made pasta, kale, squash. So some nice potential meals here together what I have lurking in the freezers.
I sort of have a strategy when buying stuff; I sort it into seasonality and delicacy. Things like plums and soft fruits need dealing with straight away but apples and pears can wait a little longer. Also if I go to the market or to my local veg shop I tend to buy the rarer items as they come into season first and then go back to those items that tend to be there most the time. That way on we get a lot of variety and practicality with the types of food am able to store. I store so much in the freezers first and then go to the botling,jamming, wine making route. I also store items in their most basic form that way I have a choice of how I am able to use the item i.e. blueberries for blueberry muffins roast tomato, leek,onion and garlic pasta sauce can be used as a base for a soup a sauce in its own right with Lasagne, meatballs. It can also be added to in terms of flavour. I have seven large tubs of this ready for the freezer and some for tomorrow nights tea with some pasta. We have a scratch night a couple of times per week on evenings when we have got other things to do and often have meals like poached egg on toast, egg and bacon, beans on toast egg and chips I make my own chips - I never buy them it takes up precious freezer space and besides home made chips are fab. Cheap but very filling.
I am also baking a lot more - that means using the oven, so when I cook I make sure that the oven is full and making the most of the energy being used. The gas is more expensive than electric and the house being rented only has a gas oven it doesn't have an electric point. Don't have anything to put in with the toad in the hole - make a batch of quick scones - then you will have something in the tins if family members get peckish or make a Victoria sandwich or whatever takes your fancy but somthing with similar temperatures. I have found that in Asda they do a very large 1kg tub of stork margarine for £1.24 that means lots of cakes.
I always keep a sack of potatoes in, net of onions,cheese milk, butter, rice, pasta, eggs, bacon flour and bread flour, yeast, sugar, tea, yogurt make my own and bread You can make a lot from these basic items that is good nourishing and will fill you up. If you can get hold of a bacon hock that will provide meat sandwiches for pack ups for family members during the week. Don't chuck the bone, boil it up to make more stock and use the cooking liquid for stock as well) home made soup is not only delicious but very filling. Grow your own mustard and cress and salad leaves. You can live well if you think about how you are going to use your ingredients in the first place.
Oh and OH came home with a load of crab apples and eating apples to process; crab apple jelly is a particular favourite especially with roast pork, used in gravies, used on toast with cheese but you can also make pectin stock from them to add to fruits low in pectin a home made version of certo. Its really about taking advantage of what comes your way and knowing what to do with it, but the only way you learn with cooking is to practice practice practice.