I can't wait until Jamie Oliver's new 'Money Saving Meals' is broadcast. Everywhere I turn, it is Great British Budget Menus, frugal blogs and rising food prices. Jamie's tasked himself to improve the situation and he's already created massive interest with his controversial, honest and upfront comments on food poverty. He states that '7 out of 10 poorest families hydrate and feed their families' with readymade meals and convenience foods. I am intrigued to see how he aims at tackling this.
What He's Saying
First up he is urging people to 'shop local' because local shops and markets offer better value in terms of quantities. I am not going dwell on Jamie's former life as supermarket hero for Sainsbury's, but rather agree with his comments on the local shop. Buying quantities you need, per recipe, is much better than spending larger amounts and wasting. I discovered this on a recent trip to London where small ethnic grocery stores, selling every fresh herb, vegetable and meat imaginable in quantities needed per recipe were prevalent.
However, the problem is that not everyone has access to local stores (even I struggle in Belfast where I am currently based) and not all local stores have a great range of fresh ingredients all the year round. We can't knock the supermarkets completely (even if I may have some qualms with them). They offer us a great service and I suppose it is up to us to want to buy the right amount of good food and to get the best value.
Jamie also mentions that:
"We should look to other countries like Sicily where the Sicilian street cleaner who has 25 mussels, 10 cherry tomatoes, and a packet of spaghetti for 60 pence, and knocks out the most amazing pasta."
This is all great, again, if you live in close proximity to the sea or farmer's market. But even if you do, someone in the family still has to make a conscious decision to cook for the family. It is a lifestyle choice.
F**k the TV
I am borrowing a quote from the Guardian on the matter:
"Some poorer Britons choose to eat "chips and cheese out of Stryrofoam containers" while sitting in a room with a "massive f**king TV" Jamie Oliver has said, adding that he cannot understand "modern-day poverty in Britain".
With a predictability that makes me commend his PR team, the masses are up in arms (in fairness I don't think Britain's poorest families are exactly Jamie Oliver's target audience) - apparently he hasn't probed why the television is there - maybe it was a gift, or a prize. He hasn't considered that in a life of poverty, maybe the television is the only bit of entertainment the family can afford, or that there is no time to cook, or that the energy bill resulting from 'slow cook pork' is too high or that the chips are the only treat that is affordable after a really bad day. To be honest, there will always be moaners and while some points are fair, I cannot abide by the majority.
1) It is possible to make healthy treats
2) Television is not the only entertainment out there (libraries, walks, playgrounds, card games etc.)
3) The no time excuse is not valid as I have worked outside the home and still cooked for my family every day for the last 30 years and
4) It is possible to eat healthy and cheaply as my many recipes show.
What I'm Saying
So what do I hope to see in the show?
It would be interesting to find out how the 3 in 10 'poor' families that eat well do it? I had hoped he might feature some of these families such as Jack Monroe in the show. Though based on Jack's latest article, I am not sure she'll be sharing her tips with Jamie. (Quick aside, once they settle their differences, I have no doubt and Jack and Jamie programme will be in the pipeline! The TV ratings would sky rocket. #justsaying)
However, I also hope that he explores some of the other ways of getting over the food poverty barrier such as the benefits of cooking lessons, looking in the bargain bin, picking the not-so-pretty fruit and veg, getting exercise and eating family meals together.
I would imagine he will reduce his intake of meat, being the most expensive product. A long time ago I made a decision to cut my grocery bills and now, 3 out of 7 meals each week are meatless and if I may say so myself, delicious. For some ideas check out the options in my weekly meal plans.
For many of us in Britain, Ireland and America, we are lucky to have a choice - to cook or not. Let's use this power.
Now, to turn on the massive f**king television and watch Jamie's 'Money Saving Meals'. Will he deliver?