Monday, 13 July 2009

To eat better, eat less . . .


I've made a couple of purchases in the last couple of days that were not strictly frugal but they weren't extravagant either.

One was two very small punnets of raspberries (from a farm called Pixley Berries which makes fruit cordials) which I bought from our local greengrocer. I didn't weigh them but I would doubt if they were more than 125g each which at 99p a punnet wasn't cheap. But they had auch a fabulously intense flavour you could eat them on their own so no need for cream or even sugar. Worth every penny.

I also picked up four packs of back bacon at the Bristol Wine & Food Fair for £10 (plus a very fetching pink hessian bag). I have to say I was seduced by the name - spoiltpig - but in fact it was produced by a company called Denhay whose bacon I've been buying for years. Spoiltpig is a very clever rebranding which underlines the fact that their bacon is reared humanely (it's Freedom Food endorsed). It's also extremely tasty - dry and savoury without that awful milky goo that oozes out of cheap bacon when you fry it. I had a brilliant bacon butty yesterday made with 2 rashers instead of 3 so reckon I didn't spend any more than I would normally have done. (You can apparently buy it in Morrisons and larger branches of Budgens)

It reminded me that one solution to cutting back your food budget is simply to eat less. Easier said than done, I know, if you have hulking great teenage boys or alpha males in your family but for the rest of us cutting back a bit is no bad thing. And it still remains possible to treat yourself to the foods you enjoy and support small producers who need your custom in the process.

Do you have any particular weaknesses when it comes to pricier ingredients?

14 comments:

The Vicar's Wife said...

I was discussing this with a friend who lives in Paris. She said the French eat all the best stuff, laden with fat and sugar, but stay slim by having small portions and not snacking. Now just to put that wisdom into practice...

verity said...

I agree about having a small amount of something extra nice, particularly if you only do it occasionally. Normally I just use basics mozarella, but about once a month we treat ourselves to the really nice M and S bocchini (sp?). My boyfriend's weakness, as I've mentioned before, is expensive balsamic vinegar (which I'm afraid to use). Both of us are v active, so struggle to eat enough to keep up with ourselves, so I'm not sure about cutting down portion sizes, but I think it would be easier if the food was especially delicious and savourable, rather than something tasteless which you just stuff down!

Fiona Beckett said...

The argument's been well rehearsed in terms of losing weight as you mention Vicar's Wife (viz French Women don't get Fat) but it's equally true when it comes to trying to live within a budget.

Good point too Verity. Good food is more intensely flavoured so you need less of it to satisfy you. (Or in theory, anyway ;-)

Claire in France said...

Last week, I bought a large thick 1 lb sirloin steak-for-two from the village butcher's.
At £16/kg (€19/kg), it is definitely not an everyday purchase, but it is a rare treat which I prefer to any indifferent red meat every day of the week!
I agree there's a lot to be said for buying for taste rather than for quantity...

Angela said...

I really had to think about this one as living on a v tight budget with growing teenagers and the aforementioned alpha male makes for an interesting time when planning shopping, I try to make sure my meat is good quality and am lucky to have a good producer nearby, my one extravagance is good butter and eggs.

Fiona Beckett said...

Good steak is a great indulgence, I agree Claire but I find if I have some really good meat I'm happy not to eat any for a few days.

Not that that can be said for teens and alpha males, Angela . . . Personally I always found the answer was carbs, unfashionable though they are now. A vast tin of roast potatoes went a long way to satisfying hungry appetites. Together with lashings of gravy

Alexx said...

I really like the pricier brands of dried pasta, like De Cecco - I find the taste and texture are really superior, but in some ways I think they make me more frugal as this pasta can be dressed very simply and still feel delicious!

robert said...

The trick with expensive stuff is to eat it slowly so your brain has time to register it. I'm fond of a chocolate bar from montenzumas but at £4.50 for a 200g bar. I prefer to eat one square a day and let it melt slowly on the Tongue! I get my chocolate hit and save calories too.

Helen said...

Oh yeah - loads! Cheese, wine and all meat spring to mind...

5dollarsaday said...

I'm somewhat obsessed with portion control and the recommended portions of most foods is a lot less than most of us normally eat.
Since I've started a serious and strict food budget, I've really noticed how little I actually eat. I swear, I must have been throwing half my food away before because now it fdeel like packages of foods last and last.

I've also learned which foods I only need in small amounts to enjoy so I can make a packet of (american style) bacon last for a long time by using it as an extra or flavor enhancer and not the main part of the dish.

My (British) housemate is quite opposite: if it's good in small doses, bigger doses must be better!

James said...

Have you tried the denhay air dried ham? Probably not frugal either - but a good alternative to paying air miles for parma ham.

I'm weighing everything at the moment. 100g of raw new potatoes is just right for a potato salad. 20g of dried bulgar wheat, cous cous or dried beans is enough for one portion too. That sure cuts down on waste.

Fiona Beckett said...

Great comments, all. I'm a De Cecco fan too Alexx. Authentic Italian pasta is much more satisfying - there's more to chew so a smaller amount seems to go further.

With you on eating slowly, Robert. That's another good frugal trick.

And cheese. God, yes - my downfall too Helen. Best not to have too much in the house. I now try to buy it one wedge at a time . . .

Good tip on using expensive ingredients 5dollarsaday. Just eke 'em out . . .

And no, I haven't tried the Denhay ham, James but I'm sure it's good. Rigorous weighing is definitely the way to go. I used to chuck half a pack of pasta in the pan automatically for the two of us. Now I measure out 200g which gives us one 'free' portion

maggiedon said...

Good chicken - a rally good big one, something like a Sheepdrove Farm free-range bruiser for about fifteen or sixteen quid. It tastes marvellous roasted, and then you get so many great meals and wonderful stock, that it is an affordable luxury and one I'm not prepared to compromise on.

Also, really good yoghurt is irresistible. I am a huge fan of Total Fage Greek Yoghurt which is just delicious - especially froxen, which makes a divine ice.

Ted said...

I love spoiltpig bacon too. I like the fact that it's freedom food endorsed, reasonably priced and as you say makes a divine bacon sandwich.

Usually the pricier stuff I buy is good quality meat - free range chicken, pork and beef; ham with no added water (so it tastes of something) etc. On the ham front I find one slice of the better quality stuff is nicer than half a pack of the one that's 20% water.

One way of 'better value' eating is to cook more and take advantage of the freezer. Bigger packs of things are usually cheaper and you can save on fuel (and time!) as the time it takes to reheat a meal is usually much less than to cook from scratch.

Plus you can take frozen stuff to work for lunch and save £5 in the canteen.

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