Scallion Rap

Austerity Cooking

Posted on: March 27, 2014

I wouldn’t dream of trying to compete with A Girl Named Jack, or any other austerity food blogger who has recently had to cope on a low income.  It is many years since I had to count the cost of food, and I also have a very well equipped kitchen, built up over more than 30 years.

But, I did cook on a low income for many years, and I’ve been doing all my own cooking for two decades, so I have a few tips to share:

  • Limit the number of cuisines you cook. That way you won’t have a cupboard full of rarely used herbs and spices and bits of kitchen kit you only get out once in a blue moon.  I cook European cuisine, primarily Italian.  I like Indian and Thai food, but I’m happy to limit my experience of Asian cuisines to restaurants rather than keep a rarely used jar of garam masala or fenugreek.
  • Learn how to joint a chicken into 8 pieces.  Whole chickens are cheaper than the pieces bought individually, and a jointed chicken goes further than one cooked as a whole (strange but true).
  • Find a good butcher who sells the cheaper cuts of meat as well as prime.  If possible buy half a lamb for the freezer and learn how to cook the cheaper cuts.
  • If you are not a vegetarian, become a moderate meat eater.  It is healthier as well as cheaper.  We eat red meat once a week in a portion of roughly 4 ounces.  Ditto chicken.
  • Tinned sardines on toast with a dash of pepper and vinegar is one of the world’s great dishes, is cheap, and gives you one of the twice weekly servings of oily fish recommended by health experts.
  • Get a pressure cooker.  I bought mine for next to nothing from a car boot sale.  I mainly use it to prepare beans.  With a pressure cooker you can have dried beans soaked and cooked within an hour and a half, a job that takes more than twelve hours without one.
  • Don’t buy a lot of expensive electrical kit.  I only have two electrical gadgets I use regularly.  The first is a hand-held liquidizer; my mouli (one of these) would do the same job, but the liquidizer is less messy and because the liquidizing can be done in the saucepan it saves time. The second is a breadmaker. I know that making bread by hand is all the rage, but I find it too time consuming and my arm muscles don’t have enough oomph. Breadmakers can be picked up very cheaply either second hand or in the sales.

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Scallion Rap is dedicated to David Armour, chef and philosopher, 1950-2010.


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