Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Austerity and the Weekly Shop

As most of you know there has been a marked rise in the cost of living in the past year and what amounts to a cut in salaries by almost £15 per week. This Daily Mail article (I don't generally read "The Mail", honest guv) offers an interesting list of all the food items which have risen in cost and tells us, quite alarmingly, of all the other increases in the cost of running a household over the past year. For those of us who feel that they are frugal enough anyway, this is somewhat depressing news, but it seems we have to take the increases on the chin and do our best as (ahem) "wise and scientific" managers of the household budget to off-set some of the expense. What troubles me is that many of the increases in food costs are due to failed harvests which were a direct result of bad weather. You know what I'm going to say here don't you? LOL! Things may just get a little bit worse; unpredictable weather, oil running out and a nice, meaty economic slump will hit us hard, right in our wallets. However, my motto has always been "nil desperandum" so I shall be as tight as a duck's you-know-what even after I've bought my posh wallpaper (I can get it at a trade price thanks to the little sis') and I shall teach my girls as much about self-sufficiency as I can so that they are well prepared for an uncertain future.

I suppose the first step to self-sufficiency is in the kitchen. Knowing how to cook offers us the freedom to both eat well and eat frugally. When I was ill we bought shop-baked bread and it cost so much compared to the homemade stuff, even though flour has too gone up in price. We also spent a lot of money on ready-roast chicken, ready-made pasta sauce, ready-made salad, pizza and frozen lasagna. The bottom line is that me having bronchitis cost the family money, and our shopping bill increased at least 40%, even though I was off my food. The convenience of the ready prepared meal is absolutely offset by the cost of the food. * However, even though we probably spend less than the average family of four on food a week (about £65) I know with a little bit of judicious planning I can really get the food bill down so that I can at last save properly for the future. My one problems is that although I have the knowledge to do this, I often lose the incentive to maintain my "good work" and I just need a little more self-control, it's something I'm praying for, believe me!

Anyway, here's the list of food an the menus. First, let me explain that I have costed the menus in two ways. The cheaper figure is attained by buying non-organic veg, non-eco washing powder and washing-up liquid, non-organic sausages and non-organic eggs. However, the eggs I did choose were free-range, the sausages were "freedom food" and the milk was organic, loo roll was made from recycled paper, most of the veg is British and the apples and bananas are fair trade ones. The second cost is the same menu but if there was an organic choice I went for it, I also costed for Ecover washing powder and eco-washing up liquid. These are the only differences. You could make a decrease in the cost of the shopping if you were willing to buy battery farmed eggs, cheap sausages, cheap bacon, cheap mince, cheap tinned tomatoes and so on. Also, this is a "baker's" menu as I have cut down costs considerably by baking my own bread and planning for cake and pie making. If you buy your bread and cakes the cost will increase.

I costed the shopping using the Asda website. I thought I would just grit my teeth and use the cheapest of the "big three". Now is not the time for Dulce Domum to shop at Waitrose. However, if you simply cannot bear the thought of giving the Walmart giant your hard-earned cash, try your local Co-op.

Cost if going cheap but free-range £39.93 Cost if going organic £58.27

Shopping List
Bread flour, lard, 2 packs butter, cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese, onions, potatoes, cabbage, bacon, spaghetti, 4 tins tomatoes, swede, carrots, parsnips, tinned borlotti beans, 12 eggs, 500g minced beef, 4 tins of tuna, olives, apples, bananas, small single cream x2, porridge oats, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, read peppers, sausages, 6 pints milk, olive oil, loo roll, washing powder, washing up liquid, garlic, celery.

Optional or Store Cupboard Stuff
Jam, vanilla, dried fruit, yeast, Marmite.

5 loaves of bread, 1 Victoria sandwich/12 fairy cakes, 1 apple pie.

Olive and tuna pasta. Made with 1 tin tuna, 1/2 jar black olives, olive oil, onion, celery, garlic, tomatoes, parmesan to sprinkle.

Vegetable soup with bread, cheese and celery. Made with 1/2 swede, 3 parsnips, 4 carrots, 2 onion, 2 spuds, lard, stock, cream. Homemade bread, cheese, celery to serve.

Cottage pie. Made with beef, carrots, onion, (borlotti beans), tomatoes, potatoes, butter, lard.

Spanish omelet and salad. Made with 6 eggs, olive oil, 3 onions, 4 spuds, salad veg to serve plus homemade bread.

Minestrone soup. Made with bacon, pasta, onion, garlic, celery, red pepper, carrots, 1/2 cabbage, borlotti beans, olive oil, parmesan.

Kind of Pisalidaire (sp??) Made with bread dough, slow cooked onion (5), olive oil, olives, tuna, salad veg to serve.

Toad-in-the-Hole. Made with 2 eggs, flour milk, onions (for gravy), lard, sausages. Cabbage, mashed swede, carrots and parsnips to serve. Apple pie and cream for pudding.

10 eggs will be used for baking and cooking so 2 will be left over. One breakfast for the girls will be boiled egg and soldiers. Then one day we'll have porridge, one day we'll have bacon sandwiches, the rest we'll stick with toast and Marmite or toast and jam.

One day will be left-over soup, jacket potatoes and cheese, tuna melts, salad sandwiches, tuna sandwiches, and cheese on toast all with salad and fruit and perhaps a bit of cake!

I'm not too sure if this makes a really boring read! However, if you're thinking of giving the menu a try I'd be really interested in learning how it works for you. I shall be posting on more frugal cooking and veg gardening in a small space very soon.

* Being ill has made me think a little about a contingency fund/plan for times when I'm not well...but that's another post.

Edit: I meant to say that I worked out the cost on the Asda website, but will be buying my meat and eggs from my local butcher. It works out at about the same price, simply because I'm buying cheaper cuts. I will probably buy my English veg from our local farm shop...not organic but very local, this means more to me, ultimately, and again because I am buying traditional English root veg it's roughly the same price.


Anonymous said...

Not boring at all! Your menu sounds delicious and these are my favorite types of posts that you do. (o:

Zillah said...

Very little time to comment, will read properly later when we return from On Tour, however, two thoughts.

1) Frugal ready meals: when I was pregnant with E I made about 5 ready meals to feed our family for 1 meal (stew, curry, pasta bake etc etc), they've been life-savers at moments when otherwise take away or M&S stuff might have happpened.

2) dried pulses. It only takes a moment to put them on to soak. I then cook them in the slow cooker during the morning so I don't have to keep an eye on them. Works out much cheaper than tinned and I think the quality is generally much higher.

Keep up the good work!


Anonymous said...

Asda?? Noooooooooooooooooo! Don't make me goooooooooo!

Hehehehe. I get supermarket stress if I visit one for too long. I went to Asda for ages and started to get some kind of supermarket induced psychosis, so I moved onto Morrisons and got fed up with there too (it's like snow blindness...too much samey, samey, samey every week, yikes) I'm now on Tesco, lol, where do I go from there?? I can't go to Sainsburys I might turn into Jamie Oliver and be annoyingly upbeat night n' day - rain or shine.

I love your menu plan, I might just steal it!

This week I made a shed-load of chilli (so cheap ton of beef mince, ton of plum toms, ton of kidney beans and freeze it). I made a pan full of turkey (cheaper than chicken) stew (carrots, leeks, potatoes, swede, onions, garlic -gotta have garlic-). Mmmm, although we're moving out of winter stew season.

Do you use a bread maker for your bread? I do but it's texture is very does yours turn out? It's yummy though.

I have one day off a week from cooking and we have frozen pizzas.

Eggs are a life saver, loads of nutrients and cheap to boot.

Sorry long a scrawly comment it's getting late and my brain is addled.

Jenny said...

Hi, I haven't had much time to comment lately. I love your week of meals because it so much like mine except I have never made or eaten toad in the hole. When I converted your pounds to my dollars and added the need to buy for three adults, one 15 year old boy ( adult appetite or more) and one child our weekly food budget (per person) is about the same. I budget about $5 per person per day

I found the same thing when I thought I might be unable to cook because I might get the bug that everyone else had, I thought my pantry was well stocked but it was all the basics to be made into food and not "easy to get teenage" or "husband arriving home from work and having to cook tea" food.

So I had to prepare things that could be frozen or reheated and so on to make life a little easier.

One more thing, how do you ever manage with so little milk, we go through about five times that each week?

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Michele
I'm glad you didn't fall asleep!! Sometimes I think I may be the only person in the world who would want to read an essay on food shopping. It's nice to know I'm not alone.

Hi Zillah
Re: Your ready meals. I started doing that for Saturdays and Sundays. I would make a ton of stew, lasagnas, etc to eat for Sunday lunch and Saturday tea. It was getting really stressful at the weekends to cook a special meal for Sunday because of church commitments and Saturdays were always busy because I tutor in the morning and then we always head off for a walk or to do something with the kids. It *really* helped to have something nice in the freezer so we didn't have to worry about shopping and cooking. However, I haven't done this since I got back from Spain as I am still not well (pleurisy!!!). But when I'm up on my feet I shall get cracking with that, I *need* a contingency!

Oh, and pulses. I love 'em, but I do buy the tinned ones, simply because of lack of planning. However, I shall bear the dried ones in mind.

Hi Linnet
Never fear!! I shan't make you go to Asda...or Sainsbury's for that matter. I'm sure Jamie Oliver is a very nice person, but I always want to slap him...Ainsley Harriet too...Anyway, it's not nice to want to do physical violence against celebrity chefs so I'll put that out of my mind...

My DH is the "mayor of chili-town" and makes a superb chili. I may get him at it this weekend so we can put some in the freezer, you're dead right it's lovely and very frugal!

I hand-bake, but I do have a bread-maker and I think they're absolutely fab. My one problem with them is that the bread is often too sweet, they seem to need a lot of sugar in their mixes to make the yeast do its thing! My kids tell me that hand-made bread is much nicer for sandwiches. However, "all hail" the bread-maker for helping the busy housewife!

Hi Jenny
Wow! You've never eaten a toad! I reckon your boys will love it, and it's real winter food, so just the thing for you southern hemisphere lot right now!

I too thought I had a well-stocked pantry, but I learnt that even though the DH can cook he really couldn't spend hours slaving over the stove, then do the washing up, straight after coming home from a hard day at work. I really need to get meals in the freezer for emergencies.

LOL about the milk! Do you have your own cow? You should get one. Seriously, my youngest was lactose intolerant for a while and still won't drink milk as a drink...she likes cheese and she likes it in food though. My DH only has milk in tea and he's at work all day (he doesn't drink too much milk because it aggravates his asthma) so that just leaves me and my eldest I only have milk in tea and eat toast for breakfast rather than cereal and my eldest will only drink 1/2 pint a day. So there you have it, we're no advertisement for the milk marketing board!

Anonymous said...

We get through 4 pints a week, I use dried milk for the bread. I don't drink milk or take it in tea, hubby only has milk in tea so we don't really get through much at all.

There are three 5 ml teaspoons of sugar in the bread maker bread, how does that compare to the handmade (I haven't made handmade for ages). It is very sweet and cakey. But yummy!! In fact if you're interested, one large white loaf is a pound of flour, 25 grams of butter, 8g yeast, 3 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 4 teaspoons of dried milk, 300 ml lukewarm water. How does that compare?

What is Pisalidaire? I googled but couldn't find. Could you post your minestrone soup recipe? Pretty please?

Ok 100 questions over now :)

Dulce Domum said...

Hello Linnet Me Darlin'

I shall get back to you with recipes and such when I've finally got rid of this rotten lurgy. I didn't want you to think I was ignoring you!!! Anyway, I *did* spell Pissaladiere wrong...I don't know how the heck I got my teaching qualification...but I shall post my de-Frenchified recipe when I've finished coughing decorously into my lacy hankie (or hacking up phlegm into hastily torn of bits of loo roll...believe what you will)!