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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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:

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

Night Owl: Extravagance at Number Nine

When I first moved to this city, I knew I didn’t want to fall into the eat, sleep, work, repeat rhythm that sucks all of the joy out of life. One of the reasons I am determined to branch out on my own is because it ensures I get to stay geographically close to the people who matter most to me. I went out with my friends on Saturday night, not, as one might expect, to a rowdy nightclub in the centre of town, but instead, to a nearby apartment block, for a dinner party.

Terribly, I did not get one picture of the marvellous spread our hostess laid on for us. She did a wonderful job at catering for my gluten-free needs. There was special bread, houmous, vegetables, roast peppers and sweet potatoes, roast tomatoes, cheeses and plenty more for us all to share. The evening was made complete with flowing wine and this delight:

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Our hostess is a talented chef and this pavlova was to die for. I did have seconds and I don’t even care about admitting that. She had foraged for the blackberries that were grown locally and whipped yoghurt into the topping to give it a tang. A wonderful time was had by all who were present.

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But after having an evening away from rationed food, I did notice more of a bloating sensation than I have been experiencing lately. It was a treat to have a meal with friends, don’t get me wrong, but I am becoming more and more convinced that rationed food is the way forward. I’ve also lost three pounds in the last week and a half. Now, I do have a fairly active job, but still, I think my shift in diet has played a role in that weight loss. I know I will have other blow-out dinners in the future, but for day to day eating, rationing wins for me.

Cleverly cunning?

This weekend just gone, the wanderer returned. My chap had been trawling Europe with two of his closest friends, and after twenty four days of adventure, returned to his sanctuary in Southampton. My oh my I was delighted to see him. I was even more delighted that he brought food with him. Bacon bought by others doesn’t count towards my ration does it? Is it deceptive and underhand, or simply making the best of a kind gift? Ultimately, this is not a deprivation exercise and I can allow myself to be cunning to acquire certain foodstuffs. I know from my research that food as gifts was quite common during wartime.

Today is Monday which means time to purchase supplies.

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Milk – ration, £1

Ham – ration, £1

Cooking fat – ration (to last three weeks) 75p

Coleslaw – off ration (I count it as vegetables) 70p

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Apples – off ration, £1,75

Carrots – off ration 18p

Cucumber – off ration 69p

Sultanas – 8 points, £1.69

Ciabatta bread – off ration, reduced to 99p

 

In my first week of eating in this manner, I still had a fairly robust stock of food behind me. The pasta has since dwindled, I have no tins remaining and I’ve used my entire points allowance for this month already. Don’t get me started on the sweet ration, although you will be pleased to know I still have some left! That’s a big deal for me!

I do however have the luxury of a freezer, which is going to come into its own this week. It was disappointing that there were no reduced g-f loaves or rolls this shopping trip, and the greengrocers was closed by the time I arrived after work. But this experiment is all about making the most of what you’ve got and eking out the pennies. I’m determined to at least last the month on the wartime diet.

 

Swiss Breakfast

My new job is fairly manual, meaning there is a fair amount of lifting and pushing and pulling involved in my day-to-day working life. Without trying to sound like a television advert, I need a sustaining breakfast to help me get through until lunch time. I don’t really do cereals anymore, mostly because I can’t eat many of them and also because I don’t think they keep me full as well as oats.

It’s far too hot for porridge at the moment so I’ve been adventurous with my morning oats and have created my ideal bowl of muesli. Although the word “muesli” wasn’t in common use during wartime, I did find a recipe for Swiss breakfast, which is basically the same thing. This is an evolved version of the overnight oats I featured here.

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In the mix, we’ve got:

1 chopped apple

large handful of oats

small handful of sultanas

sprinkle of seed mix

1 tsp honey

semi-skimmed milk

 

I don’t leave mine overnight to soak, but it is nicer if you leave it in the fridge for ten minutes before eating. The ingredients all fit into my rationing guidelines, aside from the seed mix which was left over from before. I wonder if I will get to a time when all my stores of food are all from rations or the points system. I do hope so.

A balancing act

My sincere thanks go to Declutterbug for nominating my humble blog for an award. I’ve been so erratic with posts lately, I’m sure I don’t deserve such praise, but thank you so much for the nomination.

I’ve been living in Southampton for a month and I thought things would get easier after payday. But I have been scuppered with unforeseen expense that have forced me to constantly adjust my budget.

I now have a spread sheet detailing my food shopping lists for the next four weeks. They are all based on the system of rationing that I am so enchanted with. This scheme was organised by the best nutritional scientists of the age and their recommendations still correlate with healthy eating advice today. I bought my first allocation of weekly rations on Monday, but I’m already running into difficulties.

The main reason I return to wartime rationing is that it helps me to eat health food on a budget. I went to the beach yesterday and had a glorious time. Ice cream wasn’t rationed during the war, but was rarely available. Not healthy, not cost-efficient, but I still ate it.

Dried fruit and nuts was rationed as part of the points system, but how do you calculate the points value of a 30g snack pack?

My housemate bought 9 eggs as they were the cheapest to buy, but says she won’t use all of them within the “use by” date. They have become “house eggs” and I’m free to use however many I want. Surely no member of 1940s society would have turned down free eggs?

I am facing certain challenges whilst trying to stick with my rationing guidelines, but I think if I ensure I don’t eat more sweets than my ration, and stay within my money budget, I think this scheme will be beneficial overall.

Dear Mrs Last

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I finished reading the collection of your diary entries last night. When I finally closed the book, I had one of those pauses, where you lay silently and absorb everything you have just read. Mrs Last, I salute you.

I can admit now that at times, your constant fretting irritated me. But this is coming from a reader with no prior experience of war. Once your situation truly sunk in, two world wars within your lifetime, I could appreciate why you were always so anxious. Of course, I was also reading with the gift of hindsight. When you were writing to Mass Observation, you have no idea about the eventual outcome.

The pages of your book made me laugh and cry in equal measure. I was delighted with the cookery advice you share and the meals you made for your family. But most importantly, you made me think. Some of the social concepts you noted in your diary were yet to be named, but you were still fully aware of them. I cheered when you recognised when you finally acknowledge that you were not your husband’s slave! I think you would be an extremely engaging person to talk to and you have earned your seat at my fantasy dinner party, alongside Buddy Holly and Enid Blyton.

Thank you Mrs Last. Thank you for providing a human reaction to the era I have studied. You have helped me to understand the reasoning for attitudes at the time. You endured so much and I for one am glad to see your legacy in print.

Regards,

Rebecca

One pound coin

I’m sure a few of you probably saw this coming. In my everlasting goal to save money, I’m going to take up the one pound per day challenge. I have seen variations across the blogosphere (Thrifty Lesley and One Pound Per Day, to name a couple) and have been truly inspired. I like the structure that comes along with this form of spending.

I have thought of a way to tailor this challenge to suit me personally. I will have £1 to spend each day that will go in my purse that morning. Any change left over can be carried across to the next day, but I cannot “borrow” from the future. I will accept free food, because I always have done! But I will not use the challenge to take advantage of generosity.

The £1 budget will include:

All food.

All drink.

All non-essential items.

All entertainment.

The £1 budget will not include:

Travel expenses to see the Chap or my family.

Medicine, if I ever need it.

Occasional nights out with friends/Chap (still keeping to a low budget though!)

Essential toiletries.

I plan on using every inch of my store cupboard. I think it will really teach me the value of the stock I’ve built up over time. I’m looking forward to testing my creative cooking skills. I think this particular challenge will work better than previous rationing challenges, because I can buy what I want, as long as I’m within budget. I think this will help me sustain the challenge, instead of feeling deprived. We shall have to wait and see.

I decided to start the challenge immediately, so I would have no chance to fill the shelves, consciously or unconsciously. After the November NaBloPoMo is up, I shall update my progress on this challenge every Monday. My motivation for attempting this challenge is to save money for my future. I’m more than willing to have a lean year, so that I can stand on my own two feet when I leave the sanctuary of University. I think it’s a goal worth fighting for.

So far today, I have spent 52p on 500ml of semi-skimmed milk. At least then, no matter what happens with actual food, I can always have a nice cup of tea.

Classic, with a twist.

I adore the cuisine that comes along with winter. The change in the temperature has stirred a shift in my kitchen. I love hearty stews that fill the whole house with scent. Or cradling a hot bowl of porridge in the morning, topped with sweet-spiced apple sauce – delicious! Up near the top on my list of cold weather food has got to be cottage pie. I’m a big believer in mashed potato for this time of year (read: all the time throughout the year).

My version is piggy pie; pork mince being the twist in the tale. This is a recipe I often return to, and I had just the right ingredients that needed using up. I made the base layer as you do, adding a little of this and a bit of that.

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The topping was mashed sweet potato, as that is what I had in the cupboard. It doesn’t need milk and butter in the same way you would treat regular potato, it is better without the additions. I added a little grated cheddar on top, and a couple of slices of tomatoes I saved from lunch time.

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I may not see eye to eye with Frugal Queen regarding Christmas, but she has hit the nail on the head with portion size. I have known to be a terrible glutton on occasions. But half of this dish, served with a generous amount of peas and spinach, was a lovely meal for me. Besides, the brownie I enjoyed later on filled any remaining gaps. I find home cooking fills the heart as well as the stomach, particularly this time of year (read: yes, I mean all the time).