Economising – Not Compromising (Well Almost…)Posted: February 18, 2012
Over the past six months we’ve been looking at reducing our food shopping bill. I’ve been out of work since July last year and as our ‘Rainy Day’ pot gets smaller and I’m no nearer to finding a new job, I’ve been tightening the purse strings without compromising on eating ‘clean’.
One of the biggest challenges of a ‘Primal’ diet is that it sure does increase your food bill – ‘cheap & filling’ meals full of pasta, or rice, or jacket potatoes, or based on bread just aren’t an option. That ‘kick-ass salad’ full of wonderful things like avocado, peppers, tasty tomatoes, grated carrot, cucumber, onions, boiled eggs, and some kind of meat is never going to be as cheap as a jacket potato with cheese and beans. That plate of lovely fresh steamed veggies with a nice piece of steak, or a pork chop, or chicken…same thing. Bacon and egg for breakfast….well you get the picture.
I used to get a veg box delivered each week from an organic shop on the internet. We’d get one of their ‘large’ weekly veg boxes but it didn’t have enough in it to justify the price – nearly £19 a week – and it barely lasted 3 meals for the two of us due to the sheer amount of veggies we have in our meals. I’d end up down the local supermarket buying more to get us through the rest of the week. So, my first compromise was stopping that and going for local produce – or stuff grown relatively close to ‘home’. When I shop, I look for UK first, then Europe. I’ve had to compromise on how their produce gets to us from Europe – supermarkets havent quite bought into ‘no air freight’. This time of year I can get onions, carrots, swede, cabbage, cauliflower, parsnips, sprouts, leeks, pears, apples, celeriac that have all been grown here in the UK – and peppers, avocado, courgettes, broccoli from Europe (mainly Spain) – enough of them to last the full week for around £20. I realise organic is better from a chemical perspective BUT I’m not getting the supermarket’s organic produce from Egypt, or Israel, or Peru, or Kenya… I want to keep the amount of air miles my food has attached to it to a minimum.
On the meat front, we live in Yorkshire – we have an awful lot of ‘free range’ sheep and cows. Last year we rediscovered Leeds Market and ‘Meat Row’, finding a pretty amazing butchers called J P Johnston – his lamb and beef all come from the our region and is absolutely brilliant (he also supplies local restaurants which I hope gives you an idea of the sheer quality of his meat!). I started trying the ‘cheaper’ cuts again – the ones with the great marbling of fat that ‘conventional wisdom’ tells everyone they should avoid, and because of that stays reasonably priced – belly pork, lamb shoulder, pork spare rib chops and oxtail, and all of which make absolutely wonderful meals! For around £30 I can buy enough different cuts of meat to last for around ten decent sized meals. When we push the boat out and get a full leg of lamb (including the fillet part with the awkward bone!) for around £20.
I used to try get organic meat from the same internet site I got the veg from, but once I started working through my new budget I realised it just wasn’t going to work. To try keep ordering from them, I made small compromises to begin with, trading their organic chicken for ‘free range’ and their organic pork for ‘outdoor reared’. (I used to get non-organic lamb from them – all British lamb is ‘free range’ so was perfectly happy with that). Eventually I had to stop my order completely relying instead on our treasure of a local butcher.
I’m still really keen on higher welfare for chickens though – so much so in fact, unless chicken is at least free range I just won’t buy it. A whole chicken was too expensive so I mainly stayed with chicken legs…at over £8 for a 1 – 1.5kg free range chicken, a full roast chicken became an occasional treat. And then I visited our local Aldi with my sister and discovered they sell a 1.5kg British free range chicken for just short of £5! All the time!!! Thank you Aldi (and Sis!!!!) I do miss the free range chicken wings I could get from my internet shop – they’re still great value (in free range terms) at less than £2 for a kilo – I can’t seem to get them easily anywhere else… I might have to put in a bulk order to stock up the freezer again!
One of my most recent compromises is getting free-range eggs instead of organic – they’re 20-30% cheaper and when you buy two dozen a week that’s a pretty substantial saving…!
My one sadness and biggest compromise though relates to pork. Pork is one of the cheaper meats in the UK, but higher-welfare ‘outdoor reared’ is just too expensive to buy from supermarkets in the quantities we need – and proving harder to find, with the status of ‘Outdoor Bred’ sneaking its way onto their shelves (‘reared’ and ‘bred’ are two very different things…) Organic – truly ‘free-range’ – is definitely out of our current budget.
At one point I stopped buying it completely – I’ve had to face a fact though. I can’t afford to NOT buy pork – beef and lamb are just too expensive to have all the time – even from my fab butcher, so I’ve had to make the decision to buy it, but from him. Local independent trader v big supermarket – he’ll win every time if the price (and the quality) is right, which it is.
I have found a local place online that sells half a truly ‘free-range’, outdoor reared pig at a very reasonable price – ‘Just Half A Pig‘. We’re seriously considering getting a chest freezer to put in the garage to store it…They’ll even butcher it however we want, joints, chops, spare ribs etc, and even can arrange for part of the shoulder to be made into sausages… Until we have the money to invest in the freezer though – and the capital to buy half a pig, I’ll be getting our pork from our wonderful butcher. And trying not to feel bad about it. Trying…
All these changes – these compromises – have helped me to reduce our food bill by over a third, which at the end of the day was our main goal. Now all we need is for supermarket prices to stop climbing almost every single week…
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