A lifestyle change for the New Year…

I need to make some changes in my day to day life in order to maximise my dwindling physical resources. Cooking, for example, is becoming more of a challenge and, as I have very little appetite these days, barely worth the effort.

It will still happen from time to time – I can’t imagine a world in which I never cook – and I’ve still to make faggots in gravy, for example (the ingredients are in the freezer), but on a day to day basis, food is going to be, more likely than not, something I can shove in the microwave.

If I ate more I might well be warmer, too (I’m cold at 30C), but if I eat lunch I crash soon afterwards – which is how I came to have just one meal a day in the first place, but not squandering scarce resources on cooking, if I don’t have to, is something worth considering.

I might, though, try making a light soup for lunch, as carbs seem to be the main problem. At the moment I’ve got red onions, mini plum tomatoes, and some pre-prepped sweet potato and butternut squash, which should make a light, tasty, soup, especially if I roast them first, then blitz the finished soup with a stick blender. Worth a try and, apart from peeling and cutting up the onions, and maybe a carrot or two, the work involved is minimal and would give me lunch for maybe 4 days. That level of cooking I can deal with.

I also need to end my dependence on frozen pies as a fall-back when all else fails, because they’re getting pretty crappy, frankly, and tend to contain more gravy than anything else. It’s also getting impossible to get them delivered unbroken, mainly because the trolls who restock the freezer section are dumber than the frozen fish and take no care over whet they’re doing (when I shopped in person, I’d shake the box, any rattles indicating broken pastry or batter). And talking of frozen fish, increasingly they’re small portions of fish inside great balloons of batter

I’ve been having a look at Wiltshire Farm Foods, who seem to have considerably improved their quality since I last checked them out. A week’s meals, plus a spare, will cost under £40 – I’ve just spent over £60 with Ocado without, frankly, a hell of a lot to show for it** (food prices continue to climb), so there’ll be a decent saving, and a once a month order from Ocado, Tesco or Sainsbury’s will get me all the stuff I can’t get from WFF, like eggs, cheese, and non-food items. Not entirely sure I should buy any more eggs – when I have none, I want them; when I have them, they don’t get eaten!

I do have a nice slab of pork belly to make bacon, hopefully tomorrow (Monday).

I’ve tried ready-meals from Sainsbury’s (mostly dire), Tesco (can be excellent, but very poor quality control – some dishes aren’t even properly sealed). Ocado/Waitrose, with several hundred choices, somehow manage to provide very little that interests me. Those I did find tempting came either in small portions, or were unrealistically expensive –  £5.99 for a medium-sized portion of rabbit and flageolet beans is just a tad ambitious. It’s high in salt too, 4.75g per portion, apparently,  which will do serious damage to the 6g a day limit, for those who worry about such things. Which I don’t. I’ve noticed, over the years, that my salt intake has zero effect on my blood pressure and, these days, anything that really must have salt – chips, say, gets it in spades, though I don’t do what many people do – automatically season everything before I even taste it – a great British tradition! And I use only sea salt. I’ve no idea if the claims made for its benefits are true, but it certainly tastes better than salt that been sitting underground for millions of years and is then processed to make it acceptable.

WFF, though, do offer a lot of stuff I’d like – when it comes to ready meals, simpler tends to be better in my experience – less potential for cocking it up. And I avoid carrots if I can – I’ve never felt that they freeze successfully; the texture suffers. They can be improved by a little longer in the microwave, as long as this isn’t to the detriment of the other components.

So, I’ve just put an order together, 8 meals, from very basic to “Chef’s Choice” including a couple of the larger, “Hearty,” options, to get a good idea of quality, for £31.20. That compares very well with an average of £40 for a food-only shop from, say, Tesco, though as that often includes cheese and soft drinks, the cost for actual meals is about the same. The main saving is in effort.

ScreenShot276That’s better – forgot the list!

No fish dishes – the perfectly rectangular breaded cod screamed “hospital food!” – mainly because most of the fish dishes, including those I’d have bought, aren’t available in this area (as well as the local (Chester), online list, I have their national catalogue), and that seriously pisses me off. It’s the same in supermarkets, and M&S are a major offender – we don’t get the upmarket stuff – people here either have, or are assumed to have, abysmal taste.

And as important as cash is the fact that it will remove the need to cook with, as I explained, its attendant waste. OK, that’s a pity, as I enjoy cooking, and I’m damn good, but increasingly it wipes me out, even though I can’t do it very often. And some days, when I can’t cook but need to, there’s little or nothing to eat – OK, I’ll not starve, there’s always something – though it might not be what I actually want.

I suppose you could say the same about the WFF meals, but once I figure out what I like, I can always ensure that there’s something that appeals in the freezer.

And I’ll still cook occasionally, but only when I feel well enough – not because I have to. I intend to carry on with bacon, too, as that takes almost no effort, and yields food that cooks very quickly. Not sure about sausages, though, as they’re labour-intensive, even using an electric mincer. Still, Waitrose Gourmet sausages are excellent. Not sure what’s gourmet about them, though, as they’re simply a very good, standard pork sausage, with a good balance of lean to fat to rusk – something you too rarely see these days, and don’t have a compost-heap’s worth of herbs in them either. The mark of a good sausage is the ability to taste the pig.

So there we are for now. If I can husband my energy I might feel better – frankly, I doubt I could feel worse – yes folks, this is an official whinge! – and I might get more done if I’ve more energy. It’s taken me three damn days to type this.

PS – Just bought a new microwave from Amazon – mine’s old, and I want one with a decent grill – and it says:-

Special Offers and Product Promotions

Never run out and save 10% on ready meals and microwavable rice with Subscribe & Save.

A quick look reveals limited selection of canned crap and some long-life meals, and all a bit on the small side. I suppose the long-life stuff (the canned crap you can get anywhere), might be useful for anyone without a freezer, though portions are on the small side. And it doesn’t say how the long life is achieved – irradiation, maybe?

One thing that struck me – the meals are made in Belgium and declare, categorically – Peanut free. All we get in this country is mealy-mouthed garbage that boils down to “We’re not sure about peanuts because we can’t be arsed cleaning our machinery properly between different products!”.

Worth a look if you have a peanut allergy. Not much for veggies, though.

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5 thoughts on “A lifestyle change for the New Year…

  1. I’m not making any resolutions for the new year as I find it adds pressure; I prefer to actually do little things and make the a ritual for me.

    I wish you ALL BEST regardless xxx

  2. well, i too look forward to your assessment on WFF as have been using them now practically every week for well over 5 years and feel the quality of the cheaper meals has definitely gone down plus the size of the portions too. plus it seems to be carrots with everything which gets rather boring after a while even if you like carrots. sometimes i long for big florets of cauli or broccoli instead of the timiest of tiny ones in their meals. or cabbage leaves not tiny slivers. dark greens nor=t white. broad beans or butter beans by way of a change and the only time you get spinach its smothered in a cheese sauce.as for the dearer ones……. why do they have to put sauces with everything? if they must do this why cant they serve it separate. there are some of those meals i would love but not with peppercorn sauce, or anything really spicy.can eat sweet & sour, chicken supreme or a la king but thats my lot. no tomato based ones. i cant take that or spicy stuff these days.as for prices. when i first started using them i would do monthly orders at a cost of between £45-60, now its between £25-40 PER WEEK. so one week out of four i make do with Iceland or Fultons frozen food shop meals *both marginally better than * Tesco..the latter ill have if i cant get elsewhere.other than that its canned soups or sandwiches but getting fed up of meat in the latter. like you Ron. my appetite is almost nil. mainly because with acid reflux,borderline (as the doc calls it) diabetes and symptoms of IBS or similar, i often dont know what to eat for the best. because of this i resort far too often to filling up on a cake and the like. stuff i shouldnt even be thinking about.not that it pushes my BS up much at all.and is down almost to what my FBS was that morning just before my next meal, i,e. lunch. but still its sposed to be a treat not an everyday occurence.
    im a bad one really to give an opinion i suppose as im not a food addict. never have been though i used to be a good cook and loved cooking, baking, making and icing both novelty and formal cakes.but mainly of old fashioned stick to your ribs meals. post war type as taught to me by my mum and the school cookery teacher (no talk of healthy meals in those days.) but always i have eaten to live not lived to eat.

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