Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Getting back to Basics

Sometimes you have to go back to basics to actually move forward.  My grandparents always maintained that if you had a roof over your head, food in the stomach and warmth that anything else was a bonus.  In the past three years I have had to go back to basics and some of the lessons that I have learned will stay with me  for the reset of my life and be put into practice in the future as well.  My partner lost his job three years ago and mine was the only wage that was coming in and in some cases it was spread too thin and some months we did not have the money to go food shopping and had to rely what I had in house.  I learned what basics I needed during that time.  Fortunately for us I had been in the habit of when I had money previously available to me in keeping a good stock of basic items like, flour, rice, pudding rice, dried milk, dried peas, soup mix, etc etc.  preferring to buy basic ingredients and then doing something with them myself.  In the interim I developed some medical problems and I was advised by the Doctors to cook as much as I could myself and to steer away from any processed food as it caused sluggishness within the system and would hinder my conditions in the long run and cause unnecessary pain. I therefore had a second reason for preparing our own meals, and the third reason I just love cooking anyway. 

A lot of people use the supermarkets religiously to buy everything.  They fill the trolley up with things they fancy not what they actually need. Not that they do not have their place its like everything at the end of the day it all plays its part.  But what happens if the supermarkets are not able to supply do people keep enough in their homes today so that they can get through such crisis periods, would they starve or would they rely on the generosity of others?  There is no need to starve if you change your shopping habits and keep a stockpile.

 Not to say that I don't use supermarkets as I do predominantly for basics like flour, rice, sugar, vinegar oil but  I do not buy a lot of aleady made  processed stuff - I would rather buy the basic ingredients and do something myself with them as if the goods have been prepared they attract a higher price on the supermarket shelf with very little return for your money apart from the fact that the meal is prepared. But remember you have still only one meal.  The way I buy we can have several meals.  You still have to cook it, yes, but if you put the oven on make sure it is not just for one thing and get the most out of your oven as well.  

Planning and organisation is everything here and if you just get a bit more organised and use what you already have at your disposal and you will be well fed. Being well fed doesn't necessarily mean complicated or consist of lots of veggies.  A good simple meal is toad in the hole served with mashed potatoes and onion gravy and is about flavour in by book at the end of the day.  The simpler the meal the more memorable it often is.

Keeping tabs on the pantry and the food stores can be done easily by just stocking up on items when you have the extra wherewithal available of by saving and saving and saving and then going and starting your stockpile from which to feed your family in one fair swoop.  You don't have to shop at Marks and Spencers or Waitrose you can more than adequately get what you need quite cheaply from stores such as Lidl or Aldi.  When it comes to feeding the family sensibly there is no room for being a food snob!  I know a lot of families cannot always do a decent shop in one fair swoop, but one month you could put money up for tinned stuff, the following month some meat, the following after that is probably a mixed bag a bit of each and then back to the meat etc etc.  Filled out with things like eggs, cheese milk and veggies means that you should eat simply and well.  The veg shop where I go most have frequently said that they have poor families shop there who haven't got much and they will splash out on the most expensive piece of fruit and not top up on root vegetables like carrots, parsnip, sweet potato, squash, pumpkin swede etc.  Root vegetables are a staple in this household as they are slow release energy foods.

But you say, I work full time, I don't have the time to do.  We have choices in our lives and when it comes to feeding the family well and as cheaply as you can.  The children are our future and they deserve the best we can do for them.  I worked full time all the time that I had the step children at home (as I do today) and we lived very well and there was always something for them to eat.   I would rather get back to old fashioned basics and have the ingredients not just for one dish but several vegetables being a main weapon in my armoury.

For example, we can buy rice pudding in tins, in the chillers, but  I bought a bag of pudding rice  the other week  costing X amount and so far we have had four rice puddings out of that basic grain already and there is still plenty to go at.  A pudding always pads a meal out; especially if there had not been loads of meat

I also use the market, the health food store, the Butchers, the Bakers (I bake a lot myself) the Veg shop.  I also have access to my Pantry where various items are stored, my preserve/Jam Store

Do you keep a pantry store,  a jam/bottle/preserves store, a stockpile cupboard, a freezer or freezers or simply if you grow your own do you have a store for your veggies or a vegetable clamp.  They are very useful for you to make sure that you and yours are going to be fed through the winter and also when money is tight a good way of stockpiling to help you save money in the long run.

I must confess to date I have felt a bit of an oddity when it comes to my shopping habits and the way I make sure that there is food in the house and on the table even at the most trying of times. The area I live in is predominantly multi cultural and we have a lot of Asian, Italian and Latvians and Polish living in the area.  The Polish locally have locked on to the fact that we have a very decent fruit and veg shop that doesn't charge supermarket prices but which provides good and varied produce and they are starting to use it more and more as do the older members of the English community because at the end of the day everyone has to feed themselves.  The Polish are doing as I do when seasonal food like strawberries are in they are buying a load, to either freeze down or make jam or bottle etc. if there are any offers they are making the most of the same, carrying on the traditions that they learnt to survive in their own countries as sometimes they are  miles away from the shops and have to stockpile to get themselves through.  A tradition that used to be very prevalent in this country at one stage too. The country way. My Nan always did this as the village in which they lived had a paper shop and a post office and that was it.  The nearest markets and supermarkets were at least 10 to 15 miles away.  They would only get to the nearest town once a month if they were lucky more likely to be six weeks in practice.  My Nan used to bottle everything and salt the meat etc (they kept their own pigs and chickens) and with the advent of the freezer she used to put everything in there meat wise and the excess of fruit that she had not been able to process, like plums and pears but she still carried on the bottling and also had the apple store as well and of course she made her own country wines, ciders and beers..  A good pantry or stockpile can see you through the leanest of times.  Even though you may not have money you will still be able to feed yourself which takes away part of the stress of a period of hardship.  I buy basic ingredients/commodities every month. I don't feel safe without them.  If there is food in the pantry there is always a meal.  Maybe not what you fancy maybe not exotic but it is good simple food that sees you through the good times and the bad.  Some times I buy seasonal veg and fruit as it is good to rejuvenate the palate. But I am tight I look for the bargains first and I always check them out because what price it says may be dearer i.e. it purports to be a larger pack at a cheaper price.  I always work out the single price  for a couple of packs as well.  It pays to do the maths, because quite often the supermarkets are crafty in this regard.

If you have a sack of potatoes, a net of onions, a string of garlic, a tray of eggs, some bacon, butter, spread, lard  milk, cheese, flour,  sugar, yeast and bread you can make a multitude of simple dishes that are tasty, cheap, filling and warming.  Half the fun is trawling for recipes to make the most of what you have to hand.




  1. A really interesting and sensible post Tricia. My store cupboard is really run down as DH has made inroads while he was on his own for 5 weeks. I'm about to take stock of what I have and start rebuilding ready for the winter.

  2. Hi Rowan

    Lovely to hear from you again. Men have a habit of running things down. I went for some Lee and Perrins sauce as I had only bought a new bottle a month to 6 weeks ago. When I went to the cupboard it had gone OH had been using it on cheese on toast. I have to restock my pantry too in readiness for Christmas.

    Take care



  3. Here in N Ireland, we still make make great use of our local veg shop, the bakers, the butchers. Our town is quite small and has 7 bakers and 6 butchers. People here are very fussy about knowing where their food is from. Although I can see younger people beginning to use the supermarkets more. Because we live in the country I usually make sure the pantry and freezer are well stocked. It doesn't make sense to run to the shop all the time


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