Thursday, 22 May 2008

Happiness is a Full Larder

Over the next two weeks I've decided to make a conscientious effort to fill my larder (I use the word larder loosely, what I really mean are my kitchen cupboards and my freezer)! Oh, for a real larder...I could write a poem about real larders! Having a full stock of food and household goods readily at hand will, I believe, help with the smooth running of my home. I'll outline my reasons below.

Just before Easter I contracted bronchitis/pneumonia. I was out of action for nearly a month, and like many people nowadays I live far away from extended family and only have a limited number of people who are able to help me in a crisis. This meant that the DH had not only to shop for food, on his way home from work, but cook it also. Now, DH is a competent cook, but after a full day at work and a fight around the supermarket he really only felt able to make something relatively simple. And soon we were running out of healthy ideas for evening meals...needless to say I do not want to see another ready-cooked supermarket chicken for a long time to come! A good stock of home-cooked meals in the freezer would've really helped him in that situation, as would plenty of pasta and tinned tomatoes and Parmesan cheese in the fridge and cupboards. However, it is not only useful to have a food stock because the health of "the chief cook and bottle washer" may not be good, but also if you are having to nurse sick children, poorly husband and perhaps even sick friends and neighbours. If you have been doing your Florence Nightingale bit all day it is nice to have nothing to do but heat up a meal in the evening.

Clever stockpilers know that if they do their job well they will never have to pay top price for staple foods. If you hunt out two for one offers, half price offers and cut price offers (where food will soon be passing its sell-by-date) then you will end up with a larder full of frugal food. However, be careful, as some offers aren't worth your bother. So it is probably not a good idea to buy two for one crisps if, like us, you are just going to eat double the amount of crisps (potato chips) in one week! I do not buy half price baked goods for this reason too! My advice is simply to look out for things you usually buy, and if they are half price buy twice as much as usual and pop the excess in the freezer. If you do this each time you shop, you will end up with a larder so fine and stuffed it would make a Hobbit proud.

My weekends are always busy. I tutor on a Saturday morning, and my DH always likes to take us out on a Saturday afternoon and on Sunday morning there is always church and a pint at the pub, so weekend meals are often rushed and none too healthy! What I really need is a freezer full of home-made ready-meals which I can defrost and re-heat on a Saturday evening and Sunday lunch-time. This would free us up a little, and I feel so much happier when I know that there is a proper meal all prepared after we've come home from being out and about. Also, It is a good idea to freeze seasonal food. Last year I froze lots of stewed blackberry and apple and it was a real treat to eat it in a pie mid-January or late was free too! Freezing my excess baking may also help ease the busy-ness of a weekend. It's tiresome to run out of bread on a Sunday tea-time and wouldn't it be a nice feeling to know that you have one or two cakes stowed away, to be taken out of the freezer at lunch-time and defrosted for tea-time. If I did this, had a bit of forethought, my Sunday's *really* would be days of rest! Oh, and there are some days of the month where it would be nice to take a day off (if you know what I mean) and read or craft, rather than cook and clean...on those days it would be nice just to pull something out of the freezer!

Things to Stockpile in May
  • Homemade bread for the freezer.
  • Homemade cakes (made by the creaming method, these freeze well and plain cakes do not)
  • Homemade ready meals; lasagnas, casseroles, curries and braises all make good ready meals as they can take both the freezing process and the re-heating process without either going smushy or toughening up.
  • Rhubarb is seasonal. Stew and freeze or can it or jam it! The pink stuff is very snazzy and you can get it cheap from "pick your own" farms if you don't grow it.
  • Elderflowers are now out. Make them into cordial (and freeze if you don't bottle) or make it into a jelly or wine!
  • Lamb is also seasonal, look out for freezer packs of the cheaper cuts (shoulder, neck) in farm shops. My farm shop will sell a whole lamb, which both the DH and I are tempted by...but I'm not sure we'd fit it in the freezer!
  • Half price minced beef and lamb, probably from the supermarket.
  • Butcher's offers. If I buy £10 worth of meat from my local butcher I get 1 lb of butcher's sausages free! Look out for offers on the blackboards butchers put outside their shops, many of them will have what they call "barbecue" offers on this time of year...lots of meat worth freezing, good quality too.
  • Pastry. Both shortcrust and flaky pastry freeze very well. And, when a stew becomes a pie we have happy faces all round!
  • Broad beans from the garden. Soon I will be sick of broad beans, but if I freeze my excess (after par boiling them) I will be very grateful for a few broad beans when the over-abundance is forgotten in September!
  • Loo roll. There is no escaping the need for loo roll and if you see it on offer buy it, it will save you a fortune! Why is loo roll so expensive?

Organising Yourself
I am the last person to give advice on organisation...when God dealt out good legs and organisational skills I was right back of the queue! However, it makes sense to me to have a baking day in which you plan to freeze half of what you make. Also, a cooking day too, where you plan to make three lasagnas and three curries, freezing half of what you make. You won't need to have these mammoth cooking days too often to make a difference to your larder, twice a month perhaps? Shopping days should also be planned in, as you will need to plan what you need if you are cooking in advance, and plan which shops you visit according to any offers you see in the local papers.

Anyway, I hope to be nicely stockpiled for the summer. So main meals can revolve around what is ready for picking in the garden and what is plentiful in my freezer. This will free me up to do seasonal kitchen jobs; canning, brewing (yes, I am making wine...more on that later!) and jamming. And, importantly give me a certain amount of freedom for summertime "spur of the moment" trips and outings. Oh, and please let me know any tips and ideas you have on the whole subject.


Zillah said...

Ah, a post after my own heart! (As was your last on the Transition Home, but I need to think about it too much to post on it, if you know what I mean.)

I really need to get my skates on with the frozen aspect of the Full Larder, as we have at the moment a too, too small freezer. We've worked out where we could put another half size upright, now we need to clear the relevant space and sort out the wiring (need I say this is a job for DH!). I am a big advocate of double cooking for freezer-friendly meals - we still have some of the bounty of those I made when pregnant with E. However, when we also have to get in buffalo milk (only available intermittently in Waitrose, so we have to stock up), bread (DH bakes once a week), fish (no local fishmonger) etc. etc., there isn't a lot of room for all those other useful things mentioned, and the soft fruit season is fast approaching.

What I'm trying to say - in an exceptionally waffly way is - start with the basics. Defrost that freezer, clear out the junk from it and your larder cupboard (you know, all those jars of something you were given for Christmas 10 years ago), get a white board to stick on the front of your freezer so you don't shove your treasures to the back and forget about them. In short, if your larder space isn't working properly, you may waste your hard earned assets. Oh dear, I'm afraid I was at the front of the organisation queue, although it did mean I was far to late for any useful amount of short-term memory and I accidentally stood way too far forward in the procrastination line!


Gumbo Lily said...

Today I had a baking day. Four loaves of plain bread for slicing (toast, sandwiches), 2 loaves of cinnamon bread for breakfast toast, and 1 large French loaf. I always feel so much more secure when the freezer's got bread.

Tomorrow, I'd like to add some casseroles. It's chilly and rainy, so I feel more like cooking and baking on days like this. When it's hot, not so much.

Best wishes as you fill your larder.

Cathy said...

Good Thoughtful Post DD

Plenty to think and ponder about there - sometimes I follow your way of thinking, other times I'm lazy and have to pop into the supermarket to find something to

Take care

Niki RuralWritings said...

I love stocking my freezer with homemade meals. I will often double or triple certain recipes like spagetti sauce, soups, chili, stews and then freeze the excess in supper size containers. I also home can alot of our garden produce, very cheap and delicious.
Great post!

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Zillah
The idea of having a white-board on the front of my freezer gives me a kind of thrill...I really must get out more!

Re: manky tins in the back of cupboards. My parents once bought a tin of snails in France, kept them for a few years then, in desperation, donated them to my school raffle. Over a year later they won back the same said tin of snails in another school raffle. Ooh la la!

Hi Jodi
Yes, I'm trying to use rainy days to get my cooking jobs done. Also, I can bake with the girls when it's rainy, they see it as fun and they don't get bored or stuck in front of the telly if they bake with me!

Hi Cathy
LOL!Oh yes, I know the lure of the do I love thee Marks and Spencer, let me count the ways...

Hi Niki
I've never really canned before. Although I make and awful lot of jam and chutney. This year I'm going to try to make some antipasti with the garden veg glut!

Jenny said...

I'm always working on this. Just when I think I'm well stocked a plague of locusts ( teenage boys) comes through and I have to start all over again.