August 13, 2009 6 Comments
Last night, as I settled down to my beans on toast (thats why there was no recipe btw, you don’t want me to tell you how to make beans on toast, do you?) I decided to treat myself to a bit of telly. Happily, the space usually filled between 8pm and 9pm with The Bill, Holby or Property programmes, none of which I can bear, has been joined by a new cookery show, Economy Gastronomy with the apparently talented Paul Merrett and Allegra McEvedy. I say apparently, because although I know they are very accomplished chefs, it is impossible to tell from this silly programme whether they have any talent about them at all. Taking a hapless family who managed to spend £330 a week on food (I was expecting to see Lobster and Caviar and Fine Champagne, instead I saw Ready Made Desserts, Chicken & Crisps) and turn that into £210 average spend a week in Asda. I still think £210 is an incredible amount of money to spend on food a week- I think I spend about £100 including booze and everything else. Billed as ‘their system to save time and slash our food bills while eating better than we’ve ever done before’ (or housekeeping for Dummies) by the Beeb, I was very much looking forward to some new ways to save money at the shops whilst watching some new food porn. Sadly, this show did not show me how to eat better than I ever have done before, and really, in terms of money saving tips within this programme (I took notes, just for you) we were offered such gems as:
- Plan a weeks shopping in advance
- Make a list (you can use a computer, or you can write one by hand apparently) and stick to it rigidly.
- Don’t buy ready made desserts, make them instead
- Don’t buy food outside of the house, take picnics
- ermm… Make enough of one dish for three meals over the week, in this case a beef casserole.
- uhhh.. thats.. it.
This is all very well and good. But as someone who has been really skint, I don’t think those tips are very helpful. This is my advice for anyone trying to cut down on their food spending:
- Avoid supermarkets like the plague for food. I know, I’m lucky, the part of Bristol I live in is abundantly blessed with independent grocers and butchers, indian and asian supermarkets, bakeries and delis. You may not be so lucky, but the majority of people know where their local shops and markets are. If you have them, not only should you support them because you don’t want the only food shopping you ever do to be in supermarkets, but they’re often much cheaper than the supermarkets. Especially for fresh produce. Jesus, I have a free range organic butcher that is cheaper than tescos. Every little helps. For spices, always, always go to Indian and Asian supermarkets. Always. Try the internet, if you live somewhere that doesn’t have them. This programme actually featured butchers and fishmongers discussing the food in its programme but showed its family buying meat in the supermarket. Imbecilic.Especially when the butcher or fishmonger is going to know whats good and cheap and help you with cooking ideas.
- Learn to cook. Seriously.I’ve always considered myself to be a good cook, but until I learnt to cook chinese food and curries really well, I was still spending too much on takeaways. Once I had got some brilliant recipes for foods I loved to eat I was able to eat more cheaply, healthily and quickly. And I think my food tastes better than the best indian takeaway in my area.
- Be flexible. The programme insists you should stick rigidly to your list, but I think this is BS. Lets say you’re in your local supermarket and you have salmon on your list. You get to the fish counter, and they have smoked haddock on special offer, bringing it in roughly half the price of the salmon you planned. Are you still telling me you’re taking the salmon? Please. Even if you have to plan a slightly different meal, take the haddock. That goes for a lot of things on offer – if you see something that is marked down near to its sell by date, then you can always put it in your freezer until next week.
- Consider alternative cuts of meat. Wings, belly, breast, brisket, skirt, shin, oxtail, neck. Are all delicious cuts of meat, all cheap. You just have to know how to cook them.
- Consider cutting down the amount of meat and fish that you actually consume. Pulses, legumes and vegetables can be just as filling and tasty. Pasta, rice dishes, soup, noodles, jacket potatoes, beans on toast.
- Eat seasonally as strictly as you can. Most things have a season, where they are their peak in terms of flavour, ripeness and availabilty, even though you wouldn’t necessarily know that from walking through your supermarket these days. In season food is likely to be tastier, cheaper and local. So really, next time you think about buying anaemic tasteless strawberries in November, from god knows where – and remember the supermarket has a vested interest in persuading you to do this – never mind being consumer driven – think again.
- No dessert. Really. I know its no fun, but this is about economy, remember. Even though I am not skint I don’t understand what place dessert has really, apart from on a sunday or special occasion. I might make a cake once a week, from scratch, but once its gone, its gone. In my family requests for something sweet after dinner get referred to the fruitbowl.
- Beware of ‘Value Added’ or ‘Premium’ ingredients. They don’t mean value added for you, they mean value added for the manufacturer or Retailer. When you buy a jar of Dolmio Pasta Sauce at rrp £1.70 , remember you can make better for 50p. God knows how little it cost Dolmio. Same with marinades, salad dressings, cartons of fresh soup and curry pastes and sauces. When you buy pre marinaded ribs, kebabs and chops for the barbecue, you could do the same at home for less than half the price. These things aren’t hard to do, or time consuming. French dressing takes me about 30 seconds to make at home, and it doesn’t have anything in it that isn’t completely fresh and natural, and I can make it how I like it.
- Final tip for today. The cookery book for accompanying the series has a list price of £20. Ironic, no? I suggest if you’re trying to save money, you don’t buy it. Actually, I just suggest you don’t buy it.