|Leftovers - tomatoes, bread, red onion, mozzarella and home grown herbs|
In the UK this week there has been much furore over Jamie Oliver's comments on the shopping habits of those on lower incomes. With his new book to promote, Save with Jamie, Oliver has been speaking out about the spending choices of the poorest families, commenting on their purchases of large TVs, takeaways in styrofoam trays and reliance on supermarkets for shopping.
I'm not surprised that Oliver has riled both the public and the press with these comments but this is nothing new from the Minister of Food. At least he is is consistent in his courting of controversy and with a new book to promote we all know that there is no such thing as bad publicity. He also received much criticism for championing local markets over supermarkets, and, since he earned a lot of money by working for Sainsbury's supermarket, who can blame his critics?
If you gloss over Oliver's often naive 'non-judgmental' comments in this week's Radio Times some good points are made by both Oliver and Martin Lewis (MoneySavingExpert).
- Food spending is a big part of most people's budgets – second only to mortgage/rent fees for most.
- Many of us waste food – 40% on average per family according to Oliver.
- Culturally, home cooking is not as valued as convenience in the UK.
- Bulk-buying, batch freezing, shopping with a list and using food beyond its “sell-by” date will save you money.
- It costs more money to be poor (pre-paid gas and electric meters for example).
I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking of many more ways of saving money on food than those mentioned by Oliver and Lewis.
- Don't be brand loyal to food products - most budget brands are fine.
- Shop around and don't be loyal to supermarkets (if you have a break from shopping at a supermarket they often lure you back with offers, especially if you shop online).
- Use comparison food sites.
- Buy reduced food in supermarkets (usually late evening onward) but only if you like the item.
- Buy from German supermarkets.
- Use Approved Food for luxury items that are heavily discounted.
- Grow your own veg and herbs however small your home (I've seen lettuce growing on top of canal boats).
- Buy seasonal veg.
- Buy frozen veg.
- Eat more meat free meals.
- Adapt recipes – use dried herbs instead of fresh, substitute ingredients or leave them out if they're not essential to the cooking process or flavour.
- Cooking from scratch will save you money.
- Menu plan for a week or longer.
- Keep a spending log.
- Experiment with paying with cash when shopping to stop impulse buying..
- Freeze leftovers however small.
- Regularly stock take your cupboards, fridge and freezer.
- You don't need expensive equipment to produce good food but preparation may take longer.
- Share the cost of buy one get one free (especially if bulky) with a friend or nearby family member.
- Read frugal living blogs for new recipes and ideas (many now itemise ingredient costs and give other helpful hints).
- Borrow recipe books from friends or the library - Jamie has donated thousands of his current book free to many libraries in the UK.
- Encourage everyone in your house to cook, then you all benefit.
- Don't see cooking as a chore - it has multiple benefits and research suggests that it is helpful for depression.
- If you want to treat yourself support local food producers rather than buying goods from celebrity chefs - check out your local farmer's market.
- Give home cooked gifts as presents.
- Don't shop when you're hungry.
This week (on BBC 4's Woman's Hour) Oliver admitted that some of his remarks shouldn't have been made and he also pointed out that his recipes aren't really aimed at those living on or below the line. This was clear from the first episode of his new series last night. Although he offered some good recipe ideas they did require an extensively stocked store cupboard and a food processor - there wasn't a battered old frying pan or casserole dish in sight. And there was some obvious product placement in there of both Uncle Ben's rice and Oliver's own kitchen products.
What do you think of the debate? Did you watch this new series? Have you any more tips for saving money on food?