Thursday, 27 October 2011


on a wing and a prayer

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how do you balance friends and work and volunteering and exercise and courses and church and laundry and housekeeping? it's such a difficult thing at times, to be engaged in what's happening around us, to acknowledge all that we've been entrusted with, to find time for everything that needs time. at the moment we're also trying to be very aware of our pennies, and so, where we used to meet up for dinner after work or grab brunch on a weekend, we're scaling back. but that doesn't mean that we don't deeply desire to be part of our friends lives, to engage with them and to share a meal.

dinner with family last christmas in rented flat.

i deeply believe in the power of food to connect and show care and love, food is a communing experience. but even food that we buy and serve to guests, while almost always much less expensive than one restaurant meal, let alone two, still costs money.

i should pause here and say that while i try to be conservative with our food budget, and to use sales and bulk up meat with extra less expensive food (think pasta and vegetables), we still eat very well. partly this is because i'm fortunate to know my way around a kitchen, and i enjoy spending my time stood in front of the stove. partly it is because we strongly believe that we need to nourish our bodies and our souls with good, healthy, nutritious food, and partly this is because i come from a farming background, i know how hard farmers work and we want to support local and national farming wherever possible. all of this means two things: i try to stretch our food dollars wherever possible, but we also don't skimp on what we serve to ourselves or to others.

setting the table in florence, italy on weekend break with friends.

so how to be hospitable while saving money? tonight we're having a good friend over, dinner is a sausage pasta dish with a salad, it's not fancy but it will be good - and may star here tomorrow on 'food friday' if i've done my maths right, dinner for three (plus leftovers for my lunch tomorrow) will be less than £7. for me the secret is don't serve yourself something you wouldn't serve a guest. this makes meal planning simple, it also means you can invite people over for dinner last minute, and it means that you are going to be eating well the other nights of the week.

last night on my way home i bought us a slow cooker - we thought about if it was worth it, would we use it and could we justify the price, given our budget - here's what we've come up with: the slow cooker was massively on sale: £12.99, normally £40, and it allows us to cook meat only once or twice a week and either using that meat throughout the week, or freezing the cooked meat to add to other dishes later. this also has the bonus of allowing us to serve great meals to our weeknight dinner guests without breaking the bank or having a stressful hour between getting home from work and guests arriving. finally, i am having knee surgery in a few weeks, and will be literally off my feet for a while. which will mean very little or no cooking, so le boy will be our primary cook - and dumping things into a slow cooker and being done with it seems like a good idea! throughout the month of november i'll report back on slow cooker life, food fridays will have a theme for the month.

perhaps we should warn our friends they have a season of slow roasted pork and braised beef in their future?

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