I’m doing something a bit different this month. You can blame Jamie bloody Oliver for that! Yes, he’s a bit of a plonker. Yes, he has said some pretty judgey pants things about stuff he has no real experience of BUT his food is GOOD. There’s no getting around that. I have three of his books in my cupboard. The recipes work. And I think his heart is in the right place, even if he doesn’t always get it right. I can identify with that. And I’m a bit of a plonker too.
Anyway his latest book, Save With Jamie, attracted a lot of attention in the media. I pre-ordered my copy and thumbed through it straight away, picking out meals that I might want to cook. The recipes all looked delicious, as you’d expect from a cookery book, There didn’t seem to be too many obscure ingredients but they didn’t seem particularly frugal either. The money saving bit that really got me thinking. So I’m putting it to the test.
I do not believe for a second that this book is intended for the poorest families on a very low income. Without casting any negative judgement on them, some of the ingredients featured in these recipes just aren’t an option for those on the tightest budgets. They’re not particularly exotic ingredients, they’re just not the cheapest things to buy. That’s the reality of it. However, we are working family with a mortgage, on a fairly decent salary. I set a limit of about £80 for our weekly grocery shop for four of us, as well as my monthly trip to the butcher. We keep to a monthly budget and are always looking for ways to stretch our income that little bit further, particularly through the winter months when Christmas and the heating bill eat into the shopping budget.
The basic premise is that you buy a massive joint of meat for your Sunday roast. The price of this will floor you and the butcher. But the idea is that the leftovers will feed you for the rest of the week.
I usually spend about £50-60 on meat each month, buying things like mince, chops, chicken breasts, sausages and a couple of small joints. My butcher is what you’d called ‘a character’; a brilliantly sweary, salt-of-the-earth geezer. He gives good banter and always does me a good deal, either knocking money off or throwing in some freebies. And, as we don’t have a car, he delivers to my house for free. His response when I told him about my experiment was loud profanity about Mr Oliver and total scepticism. He didn’t believe it would work out cheaper or that there would be enough leftovers to get us through the week.
So I ordered:
2kg beef brisket (I actually got closer to 3kg)
1.8kg whole chicken (he gave me two chickens for £7.99)
2.5kg shoulder of lamb (I actually got 2kg)
4.5kg half shoulder of pork, bone in (I got 3.6kg with no bone)
8 rashers of bacon
1lb calves’ liver (the butcher said this was the single most expensive thing on my list (thanks for that, Jamie!) and convinced me to have lambs’ liver instead)
4 x chicken breasts
10 x chicken thighs (he gave me another 10 FREE!).
I was also supposed to buy a side of salmon (not from the butcher, obviously) but it was far cheaper to buy the four fillets on special offer for a tenner.
And the butcher was right. This hefty lot came to a whopping £75 (excluding the fish), even with the butcher doing his best to give me a good deal! So I was already at least £15 down on my usual month’s food bill. I was very dubious at this point but clung to the hope that, perhaps, if I spent more on the meat I’d spend less elsewhere coz the leftovers would stretch further.
So I allocated a big meat joint to each Sunday and filled in the rest of the my meal plan with recipes for the leftovers. Here is week one, all based around a mahoosive bit of cow:
SUNDAY: slow roasted beef brisket, roast potatoes, swede and carrot mash, cabbage, Yorkshires and gravy
MONDAY: beef and bulgar wheat stew
TUESDAY: homemade pizza
WEDNESDAY: brisket lasagne
THURSDAY: butternut squash fritters and cauliflower mock pilau
FRIDAY: fried chicken, oven chips, coleslaw, corn on the cob
SATURDAY: liver and bacon, mash, onions, peas and gravy.
I’ll post some corresponding recipes each week, as usual. Admittedly the Sunday roast was amazing. One thing I can tell you though, we were all thoroughly sick of beef by Wednesday night. I had heartburn and was starting to worry about how much beef you had to eat before gout set in. I deliberately planned a light, meat-free supper for Thursday as a sort of antidote to the red meat of the previous days.
So what do you think? Good idea? Bad idea? Will I get gout?