Urban foraging

“Bye for now,” said a housemate recently. “See you soon.” No one knew how soon that would be, but the next thing he said was music to my ears.

“Help yourself to any thing I’ve left.”

His generosity, and that of other housemates who are indifferent to meal planning, resulted in my practically free lunch yesterday. Potatoes, a sweet potato, carrots and mushrooms were combined with my items from my own stores (leftover broccoli, a small piece of onion, gravy powder and a little cooking fat) to make a hearty bowl of goodness. This meal can’t have cost me more than 50p.

IMG_0439

I can’t abide waste, and the vegetables would have been left to go mouldy if I hadn’t used them accordingly. Waste averted and a lovely meal enjoyed.

IMG_0441

Pay day graciously arrives tomorrow and I am completely looking forward to it. I spent my last few pennies on a reduced loaf of bread this morning, but there is still pleasure to be found without costing a coin. I went for a wander this morning to pick up a stack of books from the library, including more WW2 material. I got stuck into these accompanied by a free Waitrose coffee, courtesy of my loyalty card.

IMG_0443

Simple pleasures don’t cost the earth, but I will feel more at ease when my bank balance looks healthier. Roll on Thursday!

Ging gang goolie goolie

I’ve been having a busy time lately. I’ve been rising from bed in the dark and going to sleep in the light. My body clock is just starting to realign itself again and I thought it was high time for a post. Last week, when my working hours were not corresponding to my natural rhythm, I didn’t feel like doing much. Gaming didn’t appeal, I didn’t have the patience for craft and aside from Bake Off and Doctor Who, there was little to grasp my attention on the television. So I picked up a book.

IMG_0431

(Apologies for the glare in the photo)

This was a glorious find from the library. How The Girl Guides Won the War by Janie Hampton was a twee and sometimes shockingly truthful account regarding Brownies and Guides during World War Two. I must admit, I didn’t realise the extensive work that was performed by these young girls. I feel it should have more acknowledgement than just one book, even though this book is a delightful read. I thought Hampton wove the accounts of former Guides with her own research seamlessly. I was a Brownie during my younger years and certain recollections made me smile, as I too remember singing songs and playing Tag at Brownie Camp. But I also learnt a lot from this text, including the state of various occupied territories. I knew there was stark poverty and starvation in post-war Europe, but I didn’t quite realise the extent until Hampton describes the Dutch roasting tulip bulbs to eat. It certainly added a whole new dimension to my WW2 knowledge.

I would recommend this book to any history buff, any girl guide and anyone else who likes a good non-fiction book.

 

PS I hope to return with more regular posts now that my work schedule had calmed down.

Ready, steady, cook!

My work load has increased for this week, a fact that I am grateful for. More working hours means more money earned and that, my friends, can only be a good thing.

But I needed to be prepared for the chaotic nature of this week, so it was to the kitchen for most of the day yesterday. I needed to stock the goody tin and fill the freezer and spend some time preparing food. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels cooking is good for the soul. Let me share the things I made that are good for the stomach!

IMG_0424

Firstly, I had to decide what to do with all of the odds and ends I had left in the fridge; the last of a pack of chicken thighs, half a butternut squash and someone else’s mushrooms that needed eating up. Add an onion, an apple and a fair amount of seasoning, and I had this delicious concoction bubbling in the slow cooker.

IMG_0425

I can’t actually share if the recipe was successful or not, as I’m eating the first portion tonight with piles of mashed potato. It certainly smelt appetizing last night.

Onto the baking section of today’s programme. From recent reading and research into rationing, I discovered oatmeal wasn’t rationed and the prices were controlled to make it a readily available product. So I spent 95p on a bag and got baking. I used 100g of oatmeal to 150g of porridge oats to make this batch of honey flapjacks, and they were very successful. They seemed to hold together much better than my first attempt. A winning recipe.

IMG_0426

I also had my first attempt at Scotch Shortbread, an “economical” recipe from a Marguerite Pattern book. Success! My previous exploration into g-f shortbread had been a miserable affair, but this was a delight. It only made a small quantity, but there would be no harm in doubling up if the fats ration allowed.

IMG_0428

During my shopping expedition yesterday morning, I of course spent a long time in the greengrocers. My best buy was three aubergine for 50p, all because of a couple of bruised bits. I soon chopped those off and set to work on a curry.

IMG_0427

Veggie curry doesn’t really create images of 1940s Britain, but I still had curry paste leftover from pre-rations so I made a big batch yesterday. In the mix is aubergine, onion, tomatoes, red pepper and red lentils. Even thought the jar of paste is gone, I still have plenty of spices in stock, so there will certainly be more curries in my kitchen.

IMG_0429

For dinner, I had the final chicken thigh with roasted butternut squash and sweet potato. I have no picture to share, because after an afternoon surrounded by food, I was ravenous! 

 

 

My oh my

The chap visited this past weekend and it reminded me of the visiting GIs from the war era. He wooed me with chocolate, wine and cans of soup from the black market. Yes, I strayed from my own rationing guidelines this weekend. But when we sat down together to watch a film with our coffee and small chocolate bars, I didn’t feel any guilt. In fact, I appreciated the treat a lot more than if I wasn’t sticking to rationing 90% of the time.

My purse wouldn’t approve of this weekend though. Money does disappear very quickly if you are constantly popping in and out of shops for “a few bits”. Luckily, my purse was unaffected, as the chap’s wallet came to the rescue. But it doesn’t make financially sense to continually spend in the way we did this past weekend.

After seeing the link on Sue’s blog, Frugal in Suffolk, I listened to the episode of The Food Programme and then discovered Claire’s blog, Eat for Victory, and read her blog. I found I had a lot in common with her morals and virtues concerning food and rationing. She actually allows herself £5 a week to spend on “Black Market” products and I thought about adopting this approach myself. I don’t really have £5 to spare each week, so I think a glass of wine and a bit of choccie every now and then won’t hurt. As long as I stick to my principles of little waste, making food stretch and efficient shopping, I think I’ll be just fine.

As for today, I’ve spent the majority of this week’s budget this morning. I sent parcels and cards for upcoming birthdays and celebrations, as well as collecting my rations for the week. There is some major cooking going on today, in preparation for a busy week ahead. I shall be sharing my culinary adventures and experiments over the next few days. No more contraband products for me!

 

Frugal Fridays #20

I think the lesson at the top of the list for thrifty living is to readily accept free stuff. Not always, because some items will provide no use to you whatsoever. But if something comes along that you favour, or enjoy or can make use of, pride should not stop you from accepting free items. This edition of Frugal Fridays highlights all the lovely items that have come into my possession lately, for free!

IMG_0416

My housemate was clearing through her kitchen cupboard yesterday and pulled out this box of tea. It’s not one I’ve tried before, but seeing as tea is rationed, I saved it from the rubbish pile and snaffled it away.

IMG_0415

In another free stuff story, other housemates purchased a bag of potatoes this week. The supermarket had run out of loose potatoes, so they bought a huge bag instead. I found it a bit bizarre, seeing as they are only staying for a couple of days. But it meant good fortune as the remaining potatoes were gifted to me. My ration recipe books provide dozens of recipes for potatoes, as you can imagine, so these will go a long way I’m sure.

It’s two sides of a coin really. On one hand, I wish everyone was sensible and thrifty and didn’t waste unnecessarily. But on the other hand, I do benefit from other people’s flagrant behaviour. Is that bad?

In other frugal happenings, the chap returned from yet another adventure with yet another gift. I am now the proud owner of this exotic range of spices.

IMG_0421

I’m already imagining all the dishes that can be flavoured with this mix, but the one I’m particularly interested in is this one:

IMG_0422

Is Turkish Saffron different to regular saffron? I can see Paella happening in the near future.

Let us eat cake

On Monday, when the rain was lashing down and the storm was in full swing, I baked. It started as an idea for cookies. I took my basic cookie recipe, “borrowed” some eggs from my housemate, added raisins instead of chocolate button, threw in a handful of oats and the zest of a lemon. The result? Well, as cookies, not so great.

IMG_0413

The mixture was thin, and the cookies spread too much. Plan B. I poured the remaining concoction into a square tin and baked until golden. This was spot on.

IMG_0411

I think I’m going to have another go at this recipe before posting it. The oats added a texture like desiccated coconut, which I personally don’t like so I might leave them out next time. The addition of bicarbonate of soda did wonderful things to my cookie/cake, my new favourite ingredient in the kitchen. I loved the lemon flavour too, which is strange, because citrus is not normally my thing. I was also surprised about the lovely texture of the cake, unusual for g-f baking. It rose quite splendidly.

The recipe used a hefty amount of rations so there won’t be any more baking for awhile. But the next chance I get, I’m going to perfect this recipe because it’s too good to miss.

Fuel for the day

Monday is shopping day. It’s the day I trawl around several different shops in order to get the best prices for my weekly rations. I love it. Shopping is a wonderful hobby, it never feels like a chore to me. From my unscientific research, it seems to be that males do not like taking them time perusing a shop and its wares. It’s more of an in-out-get-out-as-fast-as-you-can sort of job. But me and a girlfriend spent an hour this morning hopping from one store to the next and it was glorious.

But as today was shopping day, I woke up this morning with a dilemma. No apples for muesli, no bananas for porridge, I can’t make toast in this kitchen and I certainly wasn’t going to use an egg for just one meal. I had been browsing Carolyn’s famous blog and decided to try out her recipe for Eggless Pancakes. They were divine.

IMG_0405

As mine were made with g-f flour, they were not light and fluffy, but I do think the addition of a little bicarbonate of soda did help. They were quick to make, cheap, using few ingredients and tasted delicious drizzled with honey and served alongside a strong cup of tea.

IMG_0407 IMG_0406

It can be hard making supplies last the week, but when you get to the end of the week and there’s still goodies for breakfast, you know you’re doing ok.