It started with me reading an article on growing potatoes for Christmas dinner; then going on to me buying some Christmas Tree Cookie cutters from the Works at lunch time and a book entitled a Little Course on Preserving and subsequently a conversation where the shop staff were quite amazed that they had managed to sell a lot of Christmas based items pretty quickly. This then led on to a conversation about families buying through the year or when they saw something to put up for a family member all to help with pacing the Christmas budget without having to go overdrawn and paying for everything up front. I indicated that I could quite understand that and that I had been organising one or two bits as I had gone along myself and another customer joined in the conversation and said she actually started buying in January straight after Christmas. Because things are getting tighter you have to do what you can when you can with what you have available to you. I go looking and keep my ears peeled.
I start shopping at the beginning of September buying a few things a week stockpiling. It might be a nice box of chocolates at a bargain price/special offer, or crystallised ginger or making a few jars of chutney to give away as a present to a friend at Christmas. Equally it might be some sweets from the Pound shop whatever I can afford on that particular week. Sometimes you just cannot squeeze anything extra no matter how hard you try, but there is always another week. The idea behind doing this is that you set the pace and even if you only do a little bit it will be better than nothing and all helps ease the pressure come Christmas. This way round if you have little spare cash that prevents you from paying into a Christmas Club this way you create your own food hamper and are able to do what you can when you can.
My watch word here is check your date stamps make sure that anything you buy for your Christmas Food Hamper has a long stop sell by date which gives you extra freedom in that you do not have to use everything up for Christmas but will still be able to bring goodies out for the family in the New Year.
September is the month that I also make the Christmas cake and mincemeat. I also look out for bargains on baking ingredients and stockpile these especially dried fruit so that you can make your own goodies. Pickled Onions,Pickled Shallots, Pickled Red Cabbage,Saurkraut, Picallili, chutneys and other preserves can also be made at this time. It is also time to start haunting the hedgerows for blackberries for jam and chutney and wine and fruit for the freezer, elderberries, crab apples, sloes for sloe gin etc. etc. I also start stockpiling goodies in the freezer sausage meat for stuffings, or to make sausage rolls or buy the sausagemeat fresh and then make my own sausage rolls. You can spike the difference by making them plain just adding some additional sage and pepper, or by adding a good chutney to help lift the sausage rolls to a whole new level. I also start stockpiling in the freezer puff pastry not just for Christmas but also for weekly treats that the family will love such as cinnamon swirls, pecan splits, bacon and cheese twists, Mille Feuille slices filled with fresh fruit and cream, custard tarts etc. etc. etc.
Tomorrow I am going to get some more white wine vinegar and cider vinegar. I have pickled eggs to prepare - OH is a bit partial although they are not really my cup of tea and the sooner they are out of the way the better as it will give me time and room to do something else for the Pantry Shelf. I have two very large storage jars destined for the eggs. I also have the pickled shallots to do - I have another batch coming this week. So there is always something you can be doing to make sure that you do the best with what you have and to make sure that your family eats well. Pickled onions go well with a home made Ploughmans, or with cheese and biscuits as well as a dollop of chutney. Also Garners Pickled Shallots and onions cost an arm and a leg. I picked up 10lb of Shallots at 50p per pound, just needs vinegar and spicing and a bit of time and you can end up with a lot of jars for next to nothing. So pickles and chutneys do have a place on the Pantry shelf and its all part and parcel in preparation for that "C" Word.
Catch you soon