Cooking on a pre-pay day budget

Bag of potatoes
Bag of potatoes

Today is pay day. Yesterday was not pay day. Neither was the day before. Today I will buy real food.

Yesterday, as I wrote this article, I was eating two delightfully-soft rolls from Cameron the bakers in Selkirk. I filled them myself with not-so-delightful processed meat from the supermarket that cost me something like £1.15 for 40 slices. I bought them on Tuesday because Tuesday was two days away from pay day.

Yesterday, as I computerised this column, I added to the flavour (?) of my 40 slices for £1.15 meat by packing my two rolls with a 60p packet of plain crisps. The kind and efficient lady at the checkout informed me I could have two packets for £1. I paid for my crisps with 5p pieces from what was left in my monetary reserve that is a jar on the windowsill of my bedroom.

Kind lady of the checkout – that is why I could not take up your offer of two packets of crisps for £1. Ask me today – pay day – and I will be delighted to accept the offer.

It’s a funny thing money. I’ve never really been money orientated. I either have it, or I don’t – and I rarely have it two days before the 15th of each month when my salary drops into the bank. The 15th is always a good day. The 13th and 14th (sometimes even the 11th and 12th) are never good days on the money front. These are my Dow Jones down days.

And that is when innovative eating is on the menu. Noodles (18p a packet at Sainsbury’s) are passable if you add a stock cube and cuddle them up alongside a defrosted (and cooked) chicken burger. Meat paste (two for £1 at the Co-op) is a standby. Potato fritters are excellent – I always have a packet of flour handy – and go down a treat with mustard. My frugal dietary existence at the end of each pay period could be eased if I remembered to look in my freezer – but I don’t.

On the 10th of this month I did and rescued from its depth some link sausages. On the 11th I made toad-in-the-hole. Or, more correctly, I failed to make toad-in-the-hole. I enjoy cooking – soups and main meals, but not puddings.

I whisked up my plain flour with milk and an egg and added some chilly peppers. The trouble is that I experiment and add bits and pieces.

At the back of cupboard I discovered a packet of doughboy mix that had a couple of tablespoons left which I duly added. I carefully placed my links into the mix and placed the asshet into my pre-heated gas oven.

My eagerly-awaited toad-in-the-hole ended in the bucket. It didn’t rise – it was a stodgy mess that a pig would have turned up its snout at. It was probably the flour, but I suspect the out-of-date doughboy mix.

I was saved by a pan of fritters made with new potatoes that were probably nine months old. Well done South Ayrshire Council for exposing the great new tattie scandal.

Tattiegate scandals are, however, nothing new. Chip shops always upped their prices when the crop of new tatties arrived. But when they became old potatoes, the price never came down.

When I was freelancing I worked alongside a pretty famous folk singer. Folkies are like journalists – prone to running out of cash. We discussed what we needed to survive and agreed – tatties and toilet roll.