There has been a lot in the press recently about food waste, and off the back of that, a lot written on various blogs on the same subject, offering ways to use leftovers, and hearty assurances of how little food is wasted in THAT household. Whilst this is undoubtedly - in most cases at least - true, sadly the blogosphere is not, in this respect at least, a good cross-section of the country as a whole when it comes to wasting food. when did you last read a blog - frugal or otherwise - where the blogger said how they'd bought this or that, but then changed their mind and thrown it in the bin instead? Well no, it wouldn't make great reading would it! Of course the reality for most households is that they probably waste more than they think. I'm not going to make any grand statements assuring you that we "never" waste food - of course we do, there's always the occasional thing that passes under the radar. Last week it was a banana - I generally like them when they're still tinged with green - beyond that they get too sweet for me, and MrEH simply forgot that the last one was there. "Oh, but you should have made banana bread/cake/muffins!" I hear you cry. Well yes, except that...ummmm....neither of us like cooked bananas, so making any of those things would have been just as wasteful. Had I had yogurt and perhaps some berries of some sort it would have made a glorious smoothie, but on this occasion I didn't. so it made its way to the compost. Is that still "waste" in the true sense of the word?
Reading through Frugal blogs you hear a lot about how the cost of food is constantly rising, but do you know, in common with a lot of others apparently, I'm not noticing this so much, Sure, individual items increase and decrease in price dependant on the season - that's natural. It's always going to be cheaper to buy fresh strawberries in the middle of summer than in the depths of winter - having said that why anyone would WANT to buy fresh strawberries in the depths of winter is a complete mystery to me, they tend to taste and smell of nothing! Farm shops are brilliant for shopping seasonally as the stuff that's piled high and priced cheaply is usually what they currently have a glut of. Our local-ish farm shop has squashes and pumpkins piled everywhere at the moment - we love this time of year as one of our favourite autumn meals is a small squash each, top removed, seeds scooped out, and filled with bacon, caramelised onions, perhaps some finely chopped mushrooms, grated cheese and a generous glug of cream. Roasted in the oven for 45 minutes or so this makes a sort of cross between a fondue and a soup - just delicious! (Cover the dish with foil though, otherwise they have a tendency to launch their tops off onto the back of the oven!)
We don't buy particular foods just because they're cheap. We buy almost no convenience foods - gravy comes from meat juices thickened with a little cornflour, with a splash of beer or wine added, mashed potato comes from, well, a potato, rather than a mysterious packet full of powder. If you like those sort of foods, well good for you, but they're not for us. Perhaps though this is why we've noticed costs increasing less than others seem to be finding? We rarely buy branded, packeted, processed products, and perhaps this is where the increases are being felt most heavily? I recently did an order with "Approved Food" - the online sellers of short dated foodstuffs - the amount of "instant" and "convenience" foods they sell is almost frightening - from Polish pot noodle equivalents and "Lunch in a mug" pasta meals, to jars of "white sauce for lasagne" - seriously! Last time I looked white sauce was as simple as butter, flour and milk - why I would want to pay £1.20 for a jar of it goodness knows! I ended up with a decent box-full - bulgar wheat at 99p per kilo, pasta at 80p a kilo and dishwasher tablets at under 10p each were all chosen because they beat our "usual" target prices. Likewise a hug box of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes - MrEH's favourite - some naan breads, chapattis and crackers. interestingly the only "convenience" food I bought was 3 tubs of Batter Mix - I recognised the packaging as being M&S and so knew it would contain free range egg. 3 big tubs for 99p means that I can use that when I want to make fritters, yorkies or even pancakes, saving our eggs to be eaten as eggs. It's not something I would dream of buying normally, so it will be interesting to see what we think.
What convenience foods make it into your cupboards? And what would you absolutely NEVER buy?
(The photos, while not entirely related to the subject, were all taken in Autumn 2006, so at least fit in with the time of year!)