Simon works in our finance team and for 4 years was responsible
for buying all the fruit that goes in our smoothies – he knows
some stuff about buying food (albeit that on his buying trips he
sported some questionable headwear – he’s on the left).
Growing your own fruit & vegetables
You don’t need lots of space to grow your own food. It’s
amazing what you can get out of a plant pot and things seem to grow
even in fairly poor soil. We only have a small yard. At the end of
April we planted: 10 tomato plants, 2 courgette plants and half a
dozen different herbs. Next year we aim to increase the range once
I’ve put in a new vegetable bed.
The courgettes have been phenomenal – between the 2 plants for
the last eight weeks we have had a good sized courgette every other
day. We had our first tomato last week. The plants are dripping in
fruit. We staggered when we planted so I think we will get 8-10
weeks without having to buy a single tomato from the shops. We use
fresh herbs daily and they really lift dishes.
The total plant cost was around ~£25. I predict if I bought
this fruit, it might cost upwards of £50.
Pick your own fruit & veg
Living in London with such easy access to food, we have lost
sight of picking our own produce – it seems to be a hazy memory
of our childhood. We took our 16 month old daughter to a PYO Farm.
We bought: raspberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries, strawberries,
beetroot, carrots, parsley, courgettes, cauliflower, cabbage,
potatoes, broad beans.
We ate the vegetables and strawberries fresh (NB broad beans once
blanched freeze well). Raspberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries
freeze really well. (NB Best thing is to freeze them on metal
trays first and then transfer them to bags so they hold their
shape). Everything was amazingly fresh. We picked 4 BIG
supermarket recycle bags full of produce. Total cost was £62. I
estimate that from the supermarket this would have been £200+
Using class 2 fruit
As consumers we have all come to expect total uniformity in the
produce we buy. This drive for perfectionism means there is often
unnecessary waste at the farm level. Almost all ‘second grade’
fruit or veg is fresh - it’s just a bit misshapen – does this
matter? When you get your fruit and veg at the market you will
need to check the quality a little more carefully than the
supermarket but typically >80% of it is great.
There are big big savings here. I predict market fruit and veg
is possible 50% cheaper than the supermarket. It’s also great
having an interaction with other shoppers and stall holders. There
are some amazing characters at markets and you can pick up some
good recipe ideas from them
Cooking from scratch
We’re all busy and there could be a view that cooking from
scratch is too time consuming. But in line with Jamie Oliver’s
30 minute cooking, it needn’t be. For example making fresh bread
– once you’ve made your own bread it will be hard for you to
ever go back to ready-made. And it’s a myth that you need lots of
equipment, a bread maker or a special oven. My recommendation is to
get into sourdough bread for the fantastic depth of flavour,
brilliant rising capabilities and amazing texture. Use any excess
starter/dough to make pizza. It makes such good pizza that your
guests will think you have trained in Naples.
You also know you are not eating any nasties because you are
controlling what goes in and it’s definitely cheaper. I reckon a
batch of 6 loaves costs me £2. The equivalent quality pre-made
would be £9. NB spare loaves freeze well.
“I usually add enough salt to grit a road in 2 ft of snow.
I have cut it altogether and don't miss that either”
Put all these thoughts together and cooking/eating becomes much
more interesting, more sustainable and definitely cheaper. Brekkie
is usually home baked bread, lunch is a Tupperware salad box and
supper some sort of carbohydrate/vegetable base with a little meat
a few days a week. Maybe we have a proper piece of meat once every