I posted yesterday about Jamie Oliver's comments about poverty and food. Although this seems to be courting controversy I do see his point. I've always thought of myself as a pretty thrifty cook but for the rest of this week, despite thinking I desperately needed to do some food shopping, I'm just going to eat what I have in the house.
Having had more time to think about Jamie's comments. Do I think they were patronising? Perhaps a little but I do think it's something that needs to be said. Junk foods are cheap but you can still cook deliciously and cheaply from scratch. In traditional cultures across Europe, people did that (including the UK) but it does take some knowledge and experience. Irrespective of Jamie's comments, it's not only the UK where that knowledge is being lost and it's harming our waistlines, our health and we're losing the joy of food.
For me though, thrifty cooking and joy need to be brought back together. There are still places in the country where country fairs judge the best jams and chutneys. These things were once made because there was no alternative available and to make use of the autumn glut and there are still people out there who take pride in these things. We forget that there is a joy and a pride in food, irrespective of how humble it's origins.
Perhaps I would have liked it more if he talked about respect for food irrespective of your pay or upbringing rather than the size of a person's television but the point is no less valid.
He mentioned how cheap a mussel and pasta dish is, which is true, I've made something similar in the past myself but not many people have mussels in their shopping basket. Perhaps they should but I suspect few know where to start. The fact is though with a bit of knowledge you can make a meal out of lentils, eggs, bread, pasta, any of these things which might seem basic or boring and sometimes necessity shakes us out of our autopilot rut. It doesn't have to be fancy to taste great.
I've noticed already that I'm getting more organised. Not just for this week but for the coming weeks.
Yesterday I was thinking I needed more milk so I was going to give myself a free pass (after all it's for my son) then remembered I had a bottle in the freezer. So while we were finishing the bottle in the fridge, I've taken that out to defrost. One tick to me!
Last night I picked some gorgeous (and free) blackberries. Every year I intend to pick them and I don't always get around to it. Five minutes from my house and ten minutes picking later I had 350g of blackberries. I've put them in the freezer (they don't last long when they're wild) and I'm intending to make bramble jelly at a later date when I've picked some more but I could just have easily made a crumble or a pie. A similar amount from a supermarket would have cost me around £3.
I don't always eat sourdough. Much as I would like to, it's not all that practical. I have got into the habit though of buying a reasonable wholemeal sliced loaf and keeping it in my kitchen freezer; toasting from frozen. I've found by doing this I get through half of the bread I used to because I'm throwing far less away. So my son and I had some toast for breakfast and he also had some cereal.
Lunch will be leftover cold sausages and coleslaw from the previous night. Nutritional rating 7 out of 10, free food rating 9 out of 10. It would have gone in the bin otherwise.
For tea I've got a vegetarian lasagne sauce bubbling away. I've chosen to do it in my slow cooker because today is my day off with my son and it means I can give him some attention and don't need to be tied to the hob. I didn't have any green lentils (I know, I was shocked! It's not like me to run out. I only had red ones) so I've used a tin of borlotti beans and some of a free marrow I was given yesterday by someone who has a glut. I used some peppers I cut up and froze last week because they were getting towards the end of their life. Frozen peppers are great if you're cooking them as it doesn't matter if they soften. I'll make it more interesting with some pesto and fresh herbs from my garden (most of which cost around £1-2 to buy but have kept me in herbs all summer.) Once it's ready I will layer it up with lasagne sheets (value ones are fine) and a simple white sauce, top with cheese and bake. Using a stronger cheese means you can use less of it which is great for cost and nutrition.
Using pulses in a vegetarian lasagne makes it much more substantial and filling. Nutrition rating 8 out of 10, yes there are the refined carbs in the pasta and saturated fat in the cheese but in lasagne you will find you use far less pasta than if you were making a plated pasta dish and the sauce in this vegetarian lasagne is full of vegetables and pulses. Free food rating, 6 out of 10 because of the frozen peppers and free marrow.
So how is it going? Surprisingly well. I've found I've not missed anything yet which is a bit of a shock considering I was looking in my fridge thinking it was empty. I'm also eating reasonably healthily which was a surprise considering how little fresh fruit and vegetables are in the house. As I took the milk out of my freezer yesterday it did make me think that I have piles of leftover meals in my freezer and yet so often think I've got nothing to take to work for lunch! Inevitably at some point I then have a freezer clear out and the carefully retained meals go in the bin after all. So although no doubt my cupboards and freezer will need restocking after this week, they also are yielding more than I expected. I will keep you posted!
But does this mean I will be shopping at markets instead of supermarkets? No. I work on market day so I can't. Does it mean I will be buying 10 mange tout? No, I'm not much of a fan and I'd rather eat veg grown in the UK and mange tout rarely are. Does it mean I'm challenging my food costs and waste? Absolutely.