Struggling with the new year?

I currently find myself deeply embroiled in that peculiar annual event in which all the promises I’ve made myself seem to go straight out of the window.  I’ve survived Blue Monday and resolve to survive the remainder of the year.  About the only steady thing in life at the moment is my job and I’m thankful for that, everything else seems to be a bit up in the air, as I haven’t emerged from the post-Christmas lull that appears to be affecting me.  Perhaps it’s the influence of Mercury, which has up until today been retrograde (for those of you with astrological tastes), perhaps not, but I seem to be suffering from a bit of writers block which I’m attempting to overcome by writing on the fly.

Personally I think it shows up my lack of experience at blogging and maybe I should be planning more carefully for the future in terms of articles.  The whole experience is giving me a greater appreciation of the effort that regular writers put into their blogs to succeed in what they do.

Every month and every year most of the magazines I read display a list of what’s available for the month.  I’m going to take those lists and come up with some topics related to those seasonal ingredients so that what I write is more apt for the time of year we find ourselves in [makes mental note to create own food calendar… makes mental note to share calendar when done] <- see, planning on the go already 🙂 I’m going to have to be quick to cover January as we’re over half way through.

At the moment our meals are taking a more frugal line and I’m looking at cutting down on the weekly shop if I can.  Food prices have gone up, VAT in the UK has gone up and, if you’re like me, the monthly salary hasn’t gone up in line with anything else as even our businesses are cutting the fat (or the rind) in order to meet their financial commitments.  To top that off there are voices saying we should raise interest rates to keep the inflation at bay, and others saying it would be the worst time to do that.  Personally I hope they don’t, it’ll make what we do have left disappear even more rapidly.

So what can you do when the costs go up and you can’t afford as much as before?  I’m thinking about my student days, cash was in short supply and I had to be clever with what I had.  I found that you can get more for your money with vegetables than you can with meats, and I used a lot more rice and pasta.  I spent the large proportion of my food budget on vegetables and the remainder on dairy and meats.  Luxury items were reduced to once a month, making the luxury of having them seem even more luxurious.

You can’t do much wrong with rice and a vegetable stir-fry, I made omelettes and scrambled eggs instead of frying/boiling or poaching as adding milk increased the volume (2 eggs with milk).  At the time I learnt to bake bread and make pizzas bases, I’m not sure if pizza was the correct term for it – at the time it was more of a mini round loaf topped with pizza toppings – what I’d call extreme deep pan.  I used to load it with onions, peppers, sliced tomato, mozzarella and cheddar cheese, then add whatever I fancied out of slices of chicken, minced beef, ham, pepperoni and/or salami.  In those days a less than a quarter of my pizza sufficed for a meal with nothing else with it, the rest was sliced up and frozen or chilled in the fridge and sometimes supplemented with a jacket potato or pasta in a quick tomato sauce (cook pasta poor ketchup on it).  These days we find it too easy to order a family size pizza and can scoff the lot in one sitting, it’s surprising how things have changed.

The result is we’re going to have to change what we buy and how we use it to get the most out of it.  I think this will be the year I return to baking my own bread and biscuits again, cakes will be a monthly treat and quality cuts of meat are going to be replaced by cheaper cuts.

We’re already used to buying chicken wings and thighs instead of packets of chicken breast and whole birds to roast.  Brisket will probably replace Silverside and Topside, and lamb will probably be dropped from the menu (it’s already quite expensive), and we’ll be eating more vegetables with our meals and we’ll be making more use of pasta and rice.

In addition to that, for a couple of years now I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a farmers basket delivered, I’ve seen one company on the net that delivers in our area and it might be worth the investment … I haven’t made up my mind yet so any feedback would be helpful.

Having a quality fishmongers in the market is great but I don’t visit the various butchers there, as a result I don’t buy my meat in the market so I’m going to have a look around and see what’s available.  The aim is to change my buying habits, moving away from the supermarket and looking for a friendly service with quality products.  I’ll have to have a look at our local farms as well, I think there might also be a return to picking fruit in the spring and summer, we shall have to see how the year pans out.

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