Frugal Fridays #21

Out of all possible meal scenarios of one day (elevenses, brunch, supper and midnight snack included), afternoon tea is my favourite. Not only is it an opportunity for cake-based delights and gallons of tea, it’s a chance to use all the delicate and beautiful china I’ve been hoarding collecting. It’s actually quite a thrifty meal, especially if you adhere to the following tips.

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Make your own sandwiches with whatever is in the fridge. Shop-bought sandwiches are never up to scratch. Plus, it seems counter-productive to specifically buy ingredients when you already have a selection in the house. The magic comes with how you cut them. I did fingers of cheese and pickle, triangles of raspberry jam and trimmed my cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches with a cutter. The two different breads I used were bought from the reduced section, not that my guest needs to know that!

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Make your own biscuits. Yes, my home made gingerbread does look quite rustic, but I was complimented on the flavour. I know scones are more traditional, but you can knock up biscuits with minimal ingredients, thus decreasing the cost. I also quite like the different texture biscuits bring to the table.

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If you do buy your cakes, try to get ones on offer. I ran out of time to bake my own, and I’m not entirely confident with gluten-free cake anyway. Luckily, these finger cakes were two packs for £3. Standard cakes are much cheap, and once you add a little garnish (like my raspberries), who would know the difference?!

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Afternoon tea is an indulgence, gosh yes, and by no means a necessity. But it is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon in the company of a good friend.

Chicken alla Frugal

When I think of stew, I think of beef stew, enriched with red wine and lots of parsnips. Casserole however, conjures up a different dinner, something lighter with more greenery. Am I wrong? Quite possibly, but I had a lone chicken thigh left in the freezer so casserole it was to be.

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Into my lovely crockpot went a chopped onion, a parsnip, four carrots and the ends of the asparagus that I bought last week. It’s absolutely delicious steamed, but the bottom part is a bit woody. So I tailed the stalks and threw the ends into the casserole. I ate steamed asparagus yesterday with sausages, and I saved the water leftover. This was the basis of my stock.

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The chicken thigh was nestled in the middle and the pot went into the oven at 150 degrees for an hour and a half. Then it was whisked out, the chicken was pulled away from the bones, the flour paste was stirred through and I added some kale to boot.

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After a final half an hour in the oven, my casserole was ready. It was truly delicious. Such a simple supper, it made three lunchtime-sized portions. Yes, there is very little meat, but when the vegetables are so fresh and tasty, it doesn’t make much of a difference to me. I’m looking forward to my lunch tomorrow already.

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PS The British strawberries I bought in Sainsbury’s this week are perfect. Ripe and sweet and delicious in porridge. Just thought I’d pass on the seasonal food love 🙂

The art of eating

I’ve been really impressed with the latest series of Food and Drink. It’s the only cookery show extolling the virtues of budget cuisine. And they mean what they say. Not declaring a meal as purse-friendly, and then pulling out crabmeat or sirloin or the like. Too many TV chefs do this, in my opinion. But Food and Drink has been refreshingly different so far this series. For example, guest chef Tom Kerridge served a lamb dish that was accompanied by broccoli stalks. Frugal cookery at its finest.

Later on in Episode 2, Arabella Weir raised an interesting debate about poverty and healthy eating. She made some very matter-of-fact points that I personally agree with. On the other hand, Kerridge came across as out of touch. He said, regardless of budget, we all care about where our food comes from. I’m not making a personal comment when I say that this sounds like the chef has never felt true hunger. If you’re only having one meal of the day, I doubt you give two hoots about where in the world your supper came from. Naturally, we’d all like to make the right choices, but if it’s a decision between dinner on the table or not, there is ultimately one answer. As Arabella argued, what keeps you full for longest at the cheapest price? The sad truth is junk food. But education and knowledge is pivotal, and I think Food and Drink is doing a grand job at providing such information.

One of the best ways, I think, to eat well on a budget is to bulk buy. Thanks to my recent boost of funds, I have ventured down a new path. For the very first time, I’ve completed an online shop. And I must say, it was awfully exciting. ASDA provided some competitive prices where their gluten-free produce was concerned. It was also nice to get some variety after being mostly dependant on Sainsbury’s for these past three years. £30 worth of groceries will be whizzing its way to me on Monday. I shall inform you what I bought and my first experience of online shopping then. It will be wonderful to have the cupboards full once more.

Home grown headache

Thanks to the lovely Dc over at Frugal in Norfolk, I have gathered more accurate knowledge on the points system within rationing. It seems I was way off beforehand. I bought four cans of chopped tomatoes with 2 of my “points”, but in reality, just one can would be 6 points! Full details can be found on Frugal in Norfolk’s Rations page here. I shall be implementing proper points rationing on Monday, including soap rations. Yes, I’m committing to rationing 100 per cent. I still believe it will aid my quest to live frugally.

Another thing Dc made me think about was imported food. Bananas were removed from my shopping basket, as I know they were non-existent during the war years. But it led me to think about where the rest of my produce was coming from. After trying to decipher a few labels, I was very surprised to learn that my frozen bag of sweetcorn has come all the way from Hungary!

In a realm where “packaged in the UK” doesn’t necessarily mean “grown in the UK”, it’s a minefield. Not to mention the illusive definition of organic. One solution to this problem is to venture back to the farmer’s market. Hampshire Farmer’s Market is wonderful, as I have mentioned before. I can get the majority of my foodstuffs (including rationed goods) there, just using the supermarket from UK milk and sugar. This is a more time consuming way of doing groceries. But I think the benefits of supporting local business, as well as the environment, outweighs this. Plus, food that has travelled less tastes better, there’s no two ways about it.

However, I am conflicted because the whole exercise is to help me stick to a budget and spend less. Farmer’s markets are more expensive than popping in to the local supermarket. I think I will go to the market this weekend and see what I can get for the money I have. Original rationing was all about home grown and supporting British farming. I would like to repeat these values today. I’ll let you know how I get on next week. What do you think is best? Lots at the supermarket, or some at the farmer’s market? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Teatime

It seems impractical to deal with the concept of time on my little blog, but it plays such a crucial role in my life.

We are all servants to the mistress of Time. I do miss the bygone days of First Year where one could attend a lecture (two hours long, max) and then the rest of the day would be free. Now, every moment of the too few hours we are blessed with have to be filled. Each one has to be utilised and time wasting is almost as bad as food wastage.

I flit between Uni work, Cath Kidston work, seeing boyfriend, seeing friends, chores, cooking and sleeping on a daily basis. My life is hectic, but it is my own choices that have made it that way. The rare time off I had last week was blissful. After a joyous time at the farm shop, we went for a meander around town. Both me and my chap love browsing the charity shops, with the Oxfam bookshop being a favourite of ours. Chap walked away with a couple more classics to add to his evolving collection, and I found this . . .

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It really is the most charming piece of non-fiction. Nicey and Wifey (aka Stuart and Jenny Payne) have created an intriguing book, filled with factual information and witty anecdotes. It does what it says on the biscuit tin; it’s all about tea and biscuits. The history of tea, what makes a biscuit and different genres of biscuit are examples of chapters I’ve enjoyed so far. This little book has made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion, with the British traits that are so recognisable always prompting a chuckle.

It reminded me that taking time out is important. My morning cup of tea is fast becoming a moment of meditation, a snippet of free time that reminds me that everything is fine with the world. Maybe we could introduce “tea therapy” as the new fashionable evening class, yes?

Time flies, that’s its movement of choice. But at least it takes a pause to enjoy a good cup of tea. I would love to be able to add biscuits into the ritual, but gluten-free ones are slightly pricey and finding the time – oh, what am I like. Maybe I do need to rearrange my priorities in order to fit everything in. Or I could just dream of the upcoming summer where free time will return to me once more. One day, there will be time for morning tea, afternoon tea, tiffin and the like, but for now, my few minutes a day will still make me smile.

I’m off to put the kettle on.