Monday, 26 September 2011

Pantry Supplies and Shopping Habits

I have always been brought up where food is concerned to buy the best ingredients that you can afford at the time that you are purchasing, because the better quality ingredient the better the flavour of the finished product. As funds have become tighter ,I have had to do a lot of shopping around and in many cases not buying finished products  like cakes pies etc at all.  Ultimately just buying the core ingredients out of which so much can be made.  For me food is just about much as flavour as anything else.  Food has to be tasty, filling and good for you.  No one should go hungry.  There is no need for this at all.

Entrepeneurs/business people  take basic ingredients make something from them thus adding to their value.  There is nearly always a mark up of 50% after all the "producer" has overheads too and is looking to make a living if not a profit on what he or she has done that is the principal of business.  That is the way of the world.  So much as I like buying items produced in this way I am at the moment steering clear. Apart from if and when I spot something new I will then buy a jar and if I  like it then look around for a recipe. After all I have the equipment and usually most of the basic ingredients in stock at any one time.  It is usually just the fresh ingredient that I don't always have to hand and I try and make the best of these at any one time.  

I do in all honesty enjoy the principals of seasonal cooking  and we eat seasonally wherever we can, but in reality if I can obtain say blueberries at a reduced price out of season then I will if I am able.going to take advantage of this and either freeze, bottle, jam, pop in a pie or turn into a liqueur with them.  You have to make the most of what comes your way.  Bounty is bounty and we have to be practical.  

I do draw the line with Strawberries though; I believe that there is no strawberry quite like the English Strawberry and home made Strawberry jam on thick slices of toast on a winter's afternoon can be a tasty treat or spread with cream in a home made Swiss Roll or Victoria Sponge, or a cream tea or even a spoonful in a bowl of rice pudding; simple pleasures but tasty ones. All ones that can be made at home quite easily they are not difficult to do.

We don't have to buy everything we can make a lot ourselves and the added bonus is that you have food in store and are not hugely reliant upon the supermarket.  Obviously we have to be practical especially on those things we come across that are cheaper, but if practical sensible choices are made the planning and preservation will make sure the basics are catered for and that there is room for a few fancy things as well.  What you say I don't have the time.   Everyone has the time, it comes down to a few simple choices. Live well, eat well and be healthy.  The squirrelling instinct in me always comes to the fore to try and make use where I am able of  what comes my way and feed my family well and cheaply. 

I actually love cooking and "playing" so it is not a chore for me.  I enjoy putting proper meals on the table - we might not have meat everyday, we eat a lot of veggies but despite everything we eat simply and quite well.  There is no need to have at least three veg with meat at every course.  Quite frequently I will do toad in the hole, mashed potato onion gravy and cabbage.  The Yorkshire pudding helps pad the meal out.  We don't have a sweet every day, occasionally we do  but the point of a pudding is just to give a bit more to the recipient especially if there is not much to go around.  The men in our family were always given more on their plates to "build them up" as some of what they did was manual work.  The ladies got sufficient but smaller plates.

In days gone past it was up to the woman of the house to keep her family fed  and healthy no matter what the circumstances, or the depth of her pocket. Often the food would be under padlock and only the mistress of the house would have access to it.  In this day and age  due to funds being scarce we all need to eat well but that does not mean expensively.  I  would rather spend the time preparing good quality food when it is in season and the price is right to ensure a meal is on the table for future days. 

If you go to the supermarket and buy a pot of jam it costs in many cases well over a £1 a jar or more these days.  If you can pick up fruit cheaply i.e. plums that have been reduced at a store or a market.  On average you use 1lb sugar to 1lb fruit  or 1kg of fruit and 1kg of sugar i.e. the same amount of sugar as you have fruit and on average you will get 3 possibly 4 jars of jam from 1kg of fruit.  How much will it cost you to buy the same amount of jars of jam?  So you will 9 times out of 10 save and the produce you come up with will be fuller in flavour.  Not only that you will recycle your jam jars and also start off a stock of jam for the period between when that particular fruit is back in use again; if this is not the case when it comes to making that particular jam again you will make double the quantity.  You will also start keeping things in stock to make sure that you can take advantage of anything that comes your way.  I stockpile on sugar - I buy it when it is on offer - sugar is always useful in cooking and baking and is a necessity in preserving, although you can vary the amounts recipe to recipe.

My shopping habits have changed as a result of lack of funds and I am more likely to go armed with a shopping list for those items I really do need, otherwise like everyone else I would perhaps come back with items that although very tasty and useful in the bigger plan of things were really not essential at that particular point in time.  A few days down the road may be a little different but shopping is done in the moment and we have to be careful with our choices to get maximum return on them.

I have a central store of base ingredients which I try and keep in at all times.  How I acquire that store is varied, I utilise bog offs, reduced items, items on offer, I shop around  - I don't utilise one shopping store I use them all but prefer to use smaller shops where I can or market stalls or farmers markets or farm shops.  Sometimes I am gifted fruit - which is always a blessing. In the village where I am from bartering or swopping produce was another way of dealing with matters.  A modern update on this is to swap skills or services. 

If you have a £ (Pound) Shop make friends with it.  Whatever you can get in there i.e. foil, cling film, freezer bags, sandwich bags, cake liners, soup bags, shampoo, toothpaste, cleaning materials, candles, baking ware, sweeties, food items etc.etc.  All helps save money in the long run so that any excess can be put to a better use like buying meat.  I also use the hedgerow for wild fruits, like blackberries, crab apples, wilding apples, cherry plums, horseradish, hawthorn blossom and berries, elderflowers and elderberries, wild garlic, - whatever is available near to where you live.  It does vary quite considerably area to area, but it is something extra for your pantry with a little bit of time and effort and you never know you might actually enjoy doing this.  Today I have bought some more elderberries home and some rosehips.  The elderberries are destined for a spiced elderberry and apple jelly and the rosehips are going into rosehip and apple jelly.

Also make friends with stores like Wilkinsons - if I need something these days I usually head there first - then and only then if I cannot find what I am looking for I start nosing round everywhere else to see where I can get the best buy from.

However there is one thing that has gone by the way side - that is the Take Aways.   Although we enjoy them, they are a huge treat these days but not a necessity.  I would rather get 3 or 4 good meals or more for the £20 I would spent on a Take Away or more, but that is my choice.You have to cut your cloth according to your kelt.  Making something out of nothing that is the art and the trick.  

Out of a few basic ingredients you can make so much but I will cover that in my next post.


  1. Hey Patty pan, your photo befits you, very warm and friendly. Nice post, but now I need to toast bread. So, where did I put that strawberry jam?

  2. Hi GPD welcome to my blog. Hope you found the strawberry jam lovely on home made bread or toast especially on a cold day or in a sponge cake. Make yourself comfy and have a good roam especially with a mug of tea or coffee in hand. We have constant tea breaks here.




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