Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Do You Throw Away Over £400 A Year?

Everywhere I go these days, people seem to be whinging about the credit crunch and the soaring food prices. Some are insisting that they can barely afford to eat, while another has said that his child can’t have his 5-a-day because they just can’t afford so much fruit and veg. Yet another is saying that eggs from caged birds are the only affordable ones and then there’s the one who insists that everything should be served with potatoes and carrots because they’re the only veg that are still relatively affordable.

Well I don’t know about everybody else but I’m on a low income - lower than some of those who are doing the whinging - and yet I manage to give my daughter her 5-a-day and never ever buy anything other than free-range eggs. We eat good, balanced meals that include a good variety of vegetables, usually as an accompaniment to meat although we do eat veggie meals too, and occasionally I'll even get to have fish (LM isn’t keen on seafood, unfortunately). The fruit bowl is always full and there are plenty of healthy snacks to be had. How comes then, that I can do it but the whingers can’t? Maybe I have a money tree growing in my back garden that I'm not telling anybody about? Or perhaps I have a magic purse that just keeps putting the tenners back in whenever I take them out? Nah... no such luck. I'm just thrifty and mindful of what I buy, that's all.

For me, the answer lies in priorities. My main priorities are shelter, food and adequate clothing. Everything else comes after that with entertainment being furthest down the list. Yes, I do like a tipple now and then and a visit to the theatre or the cinema are things I love doing but I won't do them at the expense of what we eat. The second point is, that because I prioritise food, I’m mindful of what I buy and how much I need. I hate food waste and try to use up as much as I can. Sure, some of it ends up in the bin but very little - most of what doesn’t get eaten by me, LM or my guests is either fed to the worms or one of the four-legged furries.

Apparently, each of us throw away an average of £420 worth of food each year. Imagine chucking four hundred pound coins in a bin bag, tying it up and then throwing it on the landfill to slowly rot away. You just wouldn't do it, would you? Together we're chucking away 10 billion pounds here in the UK alone! 6.7 tonnes of food, all going to the landfill! If that isn’t sickening in a world where people are still starving, then what is? Where are our consciences when we’re allowing this to happen?

What really riles me is that most of those who are complaining about the rising cost of food fill their shopping trollies with frozen microwave meals, ready made sauces and lord knows what other rubbish. Food that’s full of salt, sugar and hydrogenated fat. They’re happy to buy a couple of take-aways every week and then say fruit and veg is too expensive! Or that it costs too much to cook from scratch!

Exactly where they get that idea from is anybody’s guess. I’ve recently been keeping a running tally of the cost of each meal I make and most have cost far less than a shop-bought ready-made version. The few that have cost more have been far superior, with a greater variety of healthy ingredients. And even the food that isn’t particularly healthy, like meat pie, tastes a whole lot better than the cheap versions from Asda and the likes.

Cooking from scratch is also far more satisfying. I love experimenting with flavours and trying new veggies, spices, meats, herbs and whatever else I can lay my hands on. And having put real work into preparing a meal as opposed to warming it up makes it far more rewarding to eat; I feel far more grateful for my food that way. And time doesn’t have to be a factor - there are lots of meals that can be put together and cooked in under half an hour and with everybody having a freezer these days, batch cooking makes things even easier for those who are pressed for time and slow cookers are great for preparing a meal that's ready when you get home, although I'd imagine getting everything ready in the morning can be a bit of a bind.

I can only guess that most of those who are moaning just can’t be bothered to cook properly for themselves. “I don’t like cooking” really isn’t a good enough excuse either when children are going without a decent, balanced meal.

Vesta have a lot to answer for. It was their frozen curries that started this whole "fast meals" thing.

Sharon J


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Catz said...

I totally agree Sharon! I hate to hear folk moan when their idea of a good meal is a takeaway or a ready meal! Crisps in our house are a rare treat not a weekly necesity! We eat well on very little and our menu is mainly worked out on what leftovers need to be used up. A good home made mixed vegetable soup or a fruit salad to use up the contents of the fruit bowl will add greatly to the 5 a day requirements.

Mind you I would love one of those "magic purse" lol!

Richard said...

I've made my last three meals for less than £1.00. That's altogether. And everything was fresh. The most expensive single thing was a vegetable stock cube and I didn't even use all of it. I'm not a trained cook but have always enjoyed it and as Sharon will attest, I yawn a lot during the cookery programmes (but as I don't have a telly, I don't watch many). I tend to remember certain things and wing it from there.

Learn the basics, it really doesn't take long. I don't make pies as a rule but tried one the other day and not quite remembering the ratio of flour to shortening for pastry I scanned a Jamie Oliver book in the library to check. It took two minutes to commit to memory how to make decent shortcrust pastry. I went home and made a leek and potato pie that took me completely by surprise. It was absolutely fantastic.

I still like a bag of Seabrook's crisps now and again :)

Sharon J said...

@ Catz. We usually have a multi-bag of crisps in the cupboard but they last ages. Even LM has stopped eating them as regularly as she once did. I find casseroles are a good way of using up whatever veg I have as they're so flexible but I'm going to try a vegetable soup next week (believe it or not, I've never actually made anything other than fruit soup).

@ Richard. If those people I hear complain about the cost of food would just do as you do and go to the supermarket when the yellow labels are out, they'd soon discover how huge the savings could be by cooking from scratch.

I do understand that some people find the idea of cooking quite daunting but it's really just a matter of throwing yourself into it, and there are plenty of beginner's cookbooks about.

Your risotto, as you know, is one of my favourites. Yum!

Sharon Rose said...

Hi there-I enjoy shopping at Aldis now, have done for about 8 months. We get what we need, nothing else and the savings compared to Tesco and Sainsburys must worst ways be £15 a week. plus the food is good quality and nice from here too.

Debi said...

You know the weird thing? Those of us who are used to surviving on little, and who have little or no savings but no debt either, are probably going to be better equipped to weather the current crisis than everyone else! Ha!

G.I.R said...

I think for some people who have never learned to cook it can be scary to start. One idea would be for local authorities to arrange simple cookery courses for those who want to learn but don't know where to start.

Sharon J said...

@ Sharon Rose. I haven't bought much from Aldi but will definitely start going there more often now that I'm stronger. Until now I've had to do most of my shopping online but I really don't like supporting the big supermarket giants.

@ Debi. I agree. I'm not really worried about it at all.

@ Gir. That sounds like a good idea. I'm not sure about funding but I'm pretty sure that if it was offered free then it would eventually keep the local economy stronger because more people would be buying local food rather than factory produced fast food.

Chris said...

Hi! Well Sharon somebody must be throwing away my share as I don't have any food to throw away!!

My feelings are "if only" I had some food and could eat it I would be delighted and never waste a scrap!!

Bring back proper home economics to all schools and somehow teach their parents too!!

And in case anybody wonders I am in no way rich because I cannot eat! The little bit of money gets "eaten" up somehere else in care needs etc!


Anonymous said...

Wonderful post. I had a horrible experience at the shops today where a mom was basically in the same aisle the whole way around and she had 2 young children. She kept buying crap, squashes, crisps, salty crackers, biscuits, chocolate rolls etc and was complaining about food costs and wouldn't buy her kids apples or bananas. It made me feel sick. Fab post as always!

Elizabeth said...

I so agree with you. Nobody taught me to cook - in fact, when I was in my early twenties my idea of haute cuisine was a tin of stew and a pack of Smash (oh dear, that is an embarrasing confession). Since then I've really fallen in love with cooking and can cook pretty much anything from scratch - the trick is to follow the recipe (at least the first time, I invariably start messing about with it subsequently). Cooking is not rocket science and I just can't understand why so many people today seem to consider opening the freezer, choosing a plastic tray of food, piercing the plastic with a fork and bunging it in the microwave as being able to 'cook'.

Sharon J said...

@ Chris. I'm surprised they haven't decided to cut your money being as you can't actually eat and have your artificial feed delivered free. Having a serious health condition isn't cheap though, that's for sure.

@ Frugal Trenches. I've seen those kind of mothers and really want to shake them and tell them what they're doing to their kids' futures. Is it any wonder obesity's a problem here?

@ Elizabeth. You and me alike! I had no idea when I first got married and had to start cooking. Some of what I served up back then was pretty dire, believe me.

neimanmarxist said...

i could not agree more about the savings of cooking at home. i love cooking so for me it isn't a chore, though i did have my fair share of disasters in the kitchen before i got the hang of it!!! it is such a creative, fun , and delicious way to save hundreds. i plan my meals on fridays before doing the shop on saturdays in order to make sure that there is nary a morsel left when we finish out the week. though if i have to buy a whole bunch of celery and only cook half of it that does get tossed; I hate raw celery! but it is usually the only thing ;)

Sharon J said...

I'm sure you can be excused for the celery :)

Leanne said...


Food - good food should be high on the budget list you are what you eat!

Keeping a price book and shopping differently to stock the pantry has been on of the best things I have done this year. Now we are getting organic veges direct from growers - good saving! Will stop this when enough produce from garden - but we eat a lot of fruit & veges.
We have home kill meat & buy 1/4 a cow off friend.
Have our own eggs from chooks & goose.

Love Leanne

Sharon J said...

It sounds wonderful to be able to produce as much food as you clearly do, Leanne.

Anonymous said...

Oh No!! I just threw away (well - composted) a whole cucumber I had been 'meaning to' use for an age to make Bob's favourite 'Misery', (so called because you salt the slices till they run with tears!). Moral - remind myself before I shop that I have NO children to cook/shop for anymore - Boo Hoo!