Budgets, Food and Grocery Shopping
Here we are in 2014 and we have otherwise 'normal' families collecting food from food banks...
How can this be possible when food is in such plentiful supply to the extent that it's being binned on a daily basis?
From experience, I have found it is much easier to cut down on unnecessary spending than it is to earn extra money in a hurry. If you don't know how to fight your corner in the money wars, there might never be enough to pay all the villains deceiving you into thinking you need whatever they are selling!
- Unwrap the chicken and let it sit for half an hour before cooking it. (Never sit uncooked meats above or beside cooked meats and don't splash water everywhere if you insist on washing your chicken first - I never bother washing mine.)
- Cook the chicken - the general cooking rule used to be 20 minutes per pound weight and then another 20 minutes over, which roughly calculates to an hour and a half for a chicken weighing 1.5kg, but mine slow cooks on top of the pot-belly stove if it's lit.
- Carefully pour off any juices for gravy making.
- Remove the chicken skin carefully and set this aside in a stock pot.
- Strip off every gram of cooked meat from the bones.
- Keep the white meat separate and set aside all the other meat you strip from legs, wings and the underside - there can be enough hiding under there to make a pie!
- Place whatever is left of your chicken carcase into the stock pot or large pan along with the skin and any other bits removed from the bird (giblets, if these were included).
- Cover with boiling water then allow it to simmer vigorously for an hour or so, but much longer if you are using a slow cooker. This will produce stock for your soup, while any juices from the freshly cooked bird can be used to make gravy. You cannot over cook stock unless you boil the pan dry!
- Strain the stock off into a separate pan, jug or bowl and allow it to cool.
|Use excess pastry for decoration|
- Use the white meat for roast dinner - one decent sized breast should be sufficient for 2 portions when served with all the trimmings, so there should be enough white meat for 4 tasty meals.
- Use the leg meat to make a curry, stir fry, sweet and sour or even add it to mixed vegetables with gravy and serve it as stew with something like suet dumplings.
- Use the remaining meat to make pie filling with any leftover veggies or gravy and then freeze it if you don't need to use it right away - it freezes just fine and should be sufficient to serve 4.
IF YOU HAVE MEAT-EATING PETS - I have a cat, a friend has ferrets.
- Leave the chicken carcase in the first pan and add some more boiling water.
- Skim off the fat and any excess gelatine from your jug of cooled stock and add this to the stock pan.
- Boil until the bones are soft enough that they crumble when rubbed between your fingers
- Strain off the excess water - again, this is stock that can be used for cooking
- Allow to cool and then blitz the entire contents of this pot with a blender - I use a stick blender.
- You now have close to 100% chicken paste suitable for making your own pet food. A typical can of top brand cat food can contain less than 5% chicken so bulking this out isn't so difficult when feeding to your pets along with whatever else they like. I have mixed it with boiled eggs, rice, potatoes, pasta, porridge and any combination of safe leftovers for the frugal puss and she loves it! (Onions, garlic, mushrooms and tomatoes are not safe for adding to cat food.) It's like gourmet paté for pets. (I don't add salt when cooking it, just a sprinkle of herbs.)
|Left - chicken paste for the cat. Tight - chicken stock for soup|
Skim off any surface fat - this can be used for stir frying and I have also used it in place of oil when baking savoury sandwich bread.
Soup-making is a simple case of simmering the stock with some rice, any diced vegetables you have that need using up and a sprinkling of herbs or spices. Add extra water as required and season to taste - any seasoning from salt and pepper to spices can be used. You should get enough soup for up to 12 servings, again dependent on portion sizes. See the homemade soup section for some more ideas.
This is the basis of our 'Chicken' game and it shouldn't cost any more than £10 to get you started. Half of this should buy you a chicken and the other half should be sufficient for vegetables, rice, suet, flour and seasonings to put all the meals together and provide you with enough to feed a family of four a decent meal every day for the best part of a week if you count soup as a meal.
The game really comes into play when you start getting inventive with your ingredients and making sure that absolutely none of the food you buy goes into the bin - not one bit of it.
If you don't have pets, pop your gourmet pet food into a jar and give it to someone who can and will use it within a day or two; add a homemade label, I'll bet they'll appreciate it! Or else use a freezer-safe container and keep it until it's needed for feeding wildlife - our garden hedgehogs loved the stuff!
Please help spread the word that living on a tight budget needn't be awful. If you know of anyone struggling to the extent that they cannot afford food, send them to their nearest free Internet access point, which could be the library or even just a local Wi-Fi hotspot on a friend's laptop and point them in the direction of the Frugaldom forums at www.frugalforums.co.uk Better still, invite them into your life and share what you can with them while helping them along the path to frugaldom.
Frugal living has, for far too long, been passed off as a lifestyle for the poor, but the truth of the matter is, frugal living is the lifestyle that is supporting society in a very simple and honest way.
Yes, it is simple living - it's simple in as far as 1 + 1 = 2, but it takes a wise person to make £2 do the work of £5 and be happy with their lot.