Thursday, 5 June 2014

Is food thrift relevant?

Something someone said recently made me think about one of the themes I blog about.  I often write thrifty recipes or give tips on how to make the recipe cheaper to make, cook or ways to use up or prevent waste.  My food is rarely expensive to make.  This is because it's the way I cook.  I care about food, I value it.

When I was little, my parents used to grow nearly all of our own fruit and vegetables.  None of it went to waste.  Gluts were frozen, picked, bottled, made into jam or wine.

I don't want my childhood to sound like a rural idyll because I didn't grow up in a posh place but it was a place which was very much in touch with food and where it came from.  We used to get eggs from a farm in the village and my best friend lived on a pig farm.

I think the distance we have now from food production is part of the reason we don't respect it enough.

So does my approach matter?  My approach isn't because 'thrift', for a while became a food trend; rather, food trends happened to coincide with what I'm about.  But the more I thought about it, as we've been going through this awful, extended recession, the more it did make sense.

When you are in straightened times, necessity can be the mother of invention.  Finding new and delicious ways with lentils might not sound exciting but when that leads to the best vegetarian lasagne you've ever tasted, can that be bad?  In the last few years, I've found cheap ways to eat 7 a day proving healthy food doesn't have to be expensive.

So what is the point eh?  House prices are increasing, confidence is going up, we're all great right?  Well maybe.  But if you think about it, increasing house prices is vanity, it's not real wealth.  If you have a house, unless your mortgage is fixed you're likely to be seeing interest rate rises soon, squeezing already tight incomes.  House prices going up put more and more families out of reach of buying a home.  Reliant on landlords with no real security in their rental outgoings.  As Ken Clarke said this week, British people aren't feeling the recovery yet.

Why does everyone think there is this anti European rebellious feeling in politics at the moment?  People are fed up.  Fed up with feeling the squeeze.  It's astonishing to think this has been going on for 6 years.  For much more than my son's entire life.

Food is one of your largest monthly expenses after a roof over your head.  When incomes decline, some families reach for highly processed foods which seem cheap but offer little nutrition so devising and sharing inexpensive, tasty food high in nutrition I hope will never go out of fashion.

So what have I learned?  Despite my upbringing, some habits had started to slip until we were really starting to feel the bite in 2008 / 2009.  Just like successfully dieting and keeping off the weight, I changed habits bit by bit.  I eat far less meat than I used to and the meat I do eat tends to be things like chicken thighs, small amounts of chorizo or bacon to flavour a dish, fish (if bought frozen is really thrifty) and slow cook joints like brisket.  I shop less often and am more likely to use what's in my fridge or freezer than get something specific in for a meal.  I know that with lentils and curry paste in my cupboard, I'm half an hour away from something decent, tasty and filling.  I freeze ingredients going out of date and often freeze items straight after opening if I think I won't eat the contents in time.  I label everything well in my freezer.  I can't remember the last time I threw something substantial away.

Forget about the money for a minute if you like.  I would argue that thrift is, perhaps the wrong word.  It is food respect.  If you eat meat, eating all of it including using the bones for stock is a way to respect it.  If you have vegetables nearing the end of their usefulness, making soup or sauces is a great way to preserve them because they freeze brilliantly.

Throwing food away means that was a waste, not just in the literal sense.  The food will decompose in a land fill producing methane which is a far more dangerous greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.  Energy was used in making that food and it was wasted. 

So if I've not convinced you that food thrift is worth being a 'trend', I hope I've convinced you it's worth learning how to cook good, thrifty food for the health of your family or if you like. do it for the planet instead or just because it's right.  Because, let's face it, I've never been trendy.


  1. Hi, just found your blog via MummysLittleMonkey bloghop! You make a great point, I do try to make sure food isn't wasted whenever I can just because it's a shame to waste the money... but I'd never really thought about the energy wasted in producing it and the energy that will be wasted taking it to landfill etc... I'll be keeping that in mind in the future :) xx

    1. Thanks! It is a sad fact of science communication that people focus only on carbon dioxide with climate change when other things can be far more of an issue. I think there should be far more education on the real cost of food waste.

  2. Hi, I also found you via Mummy's Little Monkey blog hop. This is a really thought provoking post, shall be following for more of the same x


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