Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Food Bills seem to be going up and up

Food bills seem to be going up and up and we are getting less and less for our money but you can still save and eat well. It doesn't have to be a take away  - in fact that is one of my rules Take Aways are out (at about £20 a hit well that's for us and would be more for a bigger family I would rather have the money and get several meals out of that sum;  OH seems to prefer my home made stir fries  - they are a bit interesting and it is a good way of using up the contents of the fridge, with a little bit of this and a little bit of that and you do not need much fish or meat to make a very filling meal out of what potentially could end up in the waste bin.  Just a few bits  out of the store cupboard as additions can make a very tasty supper although strictly speaking it does not really conform to strict Chinese cuisine but more Pattypan freestyle if you like.  Like alchemy really but then if you really think about it that is what cooking is.

 There are certain things that I will buy from a supermarket and there are somethings that I will not touch with a barge pole.  My shopping consists of mainly ingredients to make things with and I buy those said ingredients in bulk where I can things like different flours, rice, porridge oats, semolina,coconut, butter, margarine lard for pastry oils.  Some things appear on the shopping list every month because I use a lot of them and some every alternate month and then I buy other things in.  There are always recipes and I have found that the older type recipes from Good Housekeeping or Mrs Beetons are really good and still as viable today as they were yesterday. Having good basic ingredients a stockpile of ingredients that will keep for sometime and where I have the choice of what I actually  do with them gives you a lot of options as to what you actually can do and the more you look the more options and recipes you can find.

Scared of cooking - been there and worn the sweatshirt although at School I was one of the more competent students and I was fortunate to have a very good grounding from my mum and my nan (but I have had my disasters over the years); I also had an extremely enthusiastic Cookery Teacher who was fab.  One piece of advice I would pass on is start with simple things and try them out several times - that way you become familiar with what you are cooking and what you need to do but also find your own shortcuts round the recipe and then ultimately adding your own bits in here and there.

Time for me (and I also know for many of you) is at a premium as I work full time and have outside interests and a family to keep tabs on but I still cook.  I also do not rely on one particular supermarket.  I prefer where I can to get fresh veg and I shop for veg and fruit either at my local vegetable shop which is relatively cheap, and they have offers on fruit and veg  with baskets of apples, oranges, pears and bananas quite regularly sold off at £1 a basket (there is roughly 1 kg of produce in each basket). Quite frequently this is how I buy my tomatoes.  Equally I use the main market in Peterborough as I can quite frequently pick up veggies and fruit a lot cheaper than in a supermarket and when you weigh up the extra cost on some items when you add the pennies up they add up to quite a bit and could buy something else that is needed for the household.  The only exceptions is that sometimes the supermarkets have offers on and if cheap enough I sometimes utilise these and Lidl and Aldi are also very good on prices.

I very rarely buy baked goods and usually the only exception to this is a nice loaf of bread. However this evening I bought some cup cakes that are normally £1.50 for two (nothing special) but they had been reduced to 35p for two - just a little treat. I also keep tabs on the veg and fruit and store a lot of it in the fridge; and I make sure I get the most out of what I have either freezing veggies down from fresh or using up what is in the fridge by making a home made stir fry which makes a very little bit of meat go a long way and makes a substantial meal  (padded out with either rice or noodles) so that everyone is is satisfied. 

If the veggies are starting to get past their best either bung them in a stir fry, make soup, make vegetable stock - too many carrots make carrot cake; make veggie cakes (bit like bubble n squeak )and then gently fry them and  serve them with some bacon and egg.   If you cook the egg preferably fried and then cut the yolk it will gently seep into the veggie cakes and add another depth of flavour.

During the autumn and winter months I have a sack of potatoes in the house and usually a twist of garlic; a net of red onions and a net of white.  Sometimes I buy a sack of carrots and then freeze them down myself; the same with cauliflower which I prepare on its own but also cauliflower cheese as well. 

My intention is to have food in the house and that we are well fed simply and the food that we do eat is healthy and tasty and I love experimenting.

There is always the option of making two dishes, eating one and freezing the other as that saves time, fuel costs and quite frequently you can do a deal with a butcher  and so achieve a better price all round.

Its down to the women predominantly of a family to keep their families well fed and at minimum cost; a task which used to be a common one before the days of supermarkets because the only way you survived was by stockpiling and eking out that which came your way.

One thing I do try and do is have some spare cash handy each month so that I can take advantage of a genuine bargain or reduced prices.  Food is very important in this household it is the fuel that keeps us going so that we keep healthy and probably is the one item where a huge chunk of our monthly income disappears too and I keep well stocked up as a rule of thumb as you can survive off what you have to hand for at least three to four months without having to re-stock if you are sensible about your base ingredient choices and do not wish to have exotic this or that every night for your tea.  This evening I have bought four sauces two sweet and sour (Homepride ones which I got for 50p a tin and two Korma sauces for 23p a jar.  Mixes for two meals of each sauce for the coming month or more with the addition of chicken makes a very quick supper.
I usually bake making my own shortcrust pastry, cakes, puddings, bread  and get more for my money in the long run.  Sometimes I do not bake every week but do a batch bake every so often and then freeze down certain items.  I batch bake where I can as it is more cost effective in respect of the fuel for the oven.  It may only be a simple thing like buying some puff pastry and making some milles feuilles; quite simply by rolling out the pastry and cutting into little oblongs or two large oblongs cook them in the oven and they should rise (milles feuilles loosely meaning many layers) then either whip some fresh cream, add some fresh fruit and you have some very simple pastry treats that have not cost you an arm or a leg. Equally you can make buttercream and sandwich two pieces together adding a layer of strawberry jam as well.  Equally rolling out puff pastry sheets and then sprinkling sugar, and cinnamon and you can add a little butter as well and then rolling up into a large roll and then slicing into little slices and cooking also make delicious little bites and you can finish them off with a simple white icing.  You can end up with so many more little treats for you and yours just by having a go and releasing your creativity and planning to some extent on what you intend to have for a meal.

One thing that I think everyone should bring back is the good old Tea pot. Make tea in a pot with a two to three tea bags in  instead of an individual tea bag one for every mug.  You end up with a nice cup of tea, minimum use of tea bags and the tea bags once spent can be soaked in water to use as a feed for plants in the garden fuschias and pelargoniums particularly love this treat.

Right I think it was about time I was in bed the ironing is done for this evening another lot to do tomorrow!

Catch you soon




  1. Some brilliant tips Pattypan, I try to bake each week for packed lunches and a firm favourite just now is puff pastry (shop bought) rolled out with cheese or folded over with ham and cheese. Very simple & filling. However the kids love a shop bought cake, its a huge treat as I've always baked my own; their friends usually think a homemade cake is a treat!

  2. What a common-sense posting. I have taught my offspring how to cook, and how to economise - in fact, T is better at making sixpence do the work a of a shilling even better than me! I can't help it, but when I am shopping I look at what other people have in their trolleys or baskets and quite often have a mental tut-tut if it's instant this and that from the freezer or chill counter! But then when I have been poorly and run-down in recent months, sometimes a bag of oven chips or a ready made pizza comes home with me (but they are always SO disappointing).

    Living where we do (10 miles from the shops) I keep a good store cupboard and try and stock up on things when they are on offer. I like to have one thing in use, and one spare, and when I start on the spare one, then it goes on my shopping list for stocking up again.


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