A wild looking DJ confronted me last night as I returned from a choir rehearsal, brandishing a knife. “Don’t come in the kitchen, dear,” he warned me, his face glowing like a ripe beetroot, “You wouldn’t like it.” I ignored his pleas and pushed past him in search of a glass of water, doing my best to ignore the grey fluff peeking out of a plastic bag in the sink.
The SAS Survival Handbook lay open on the coffee table and even our laptop featured a particularly gory selection of YouTube videos. No, DJ wasn’t re-enacting scenes from The Shining in my absence, but attempting to skin a rabbit for the first time.
My bartering friend John got in touch yesterday morning. “I’m going shooting so I might have a rabbit for you,” he yelled over his crackly mobile phone. “If you’re not in I’ll leave it in a bin bag on your doorstep,” he added, worryingly. This was great, I thought, but not if my elderly next-door neighbour stumbled over it accidentally in the dark. Mind you, no doubt she has a stronger stomach than me, so she would probably be fairly sanguine about it all once she got over the initial shock.
As a soppy animal lover and a complete coward I wondered if I would be able to bring myself to look in John’s bin bag when it arrived, let alone skin it. Last year DJ and I attended a wild food course and just watching an expert skinning a rabbit turned me green. At the time I really thought I was going to vomit.
In the end John turned up while I was out and DJ agreed to skin it, being of a less neurotic disposition. Unfortunately we only had six eggs and our straight barter – rabbit for eggs – was for a dozen, so John will have to pop round later in the week to collect the rest when the girls have produced them.
So tonight rabbit stew is on the menu. And with food prices apparently spiralling it will be interesting to eat a meal for which we have essentially paid nothing, merely bartered our own goods. In some supermarkets people are spending 50 per cent more on free range eggs and the price pasta, rice and potatoes have risen sharply because of tighter supplies, increased demand and differing weather patterns.
Perhaps in some cases bartering may be the answer. But not everybody has the opportunity. We live near the countryside but if you live in an urban environment freshly shot rabbit probably isn’t an option! However, using a supermarket comparison website like mysupermarket.co.uk can help you compare prices of groceries from store to store. Here’s a good article on ten ways to save money on your shopping.
But I also think meal planning and making shopping list and really sticking to it is vital considering all the tricks supermarkets use to try and get you to buy things you don’t need. I try to avoid shopping when I’m hungry, and online shopping can be a good way of getting around this, as long as you buy enough to avoid paying a delivery charge depending on the supermarket you use. And avoiding waste is another issue. Apparently UK consumers throw away seven tonnes of food every year, so if we cut down on that we could all save a small fortune. I try not to have too much meat sitting in the fridge in case we forget to eat it and have to throw it out. Plus if there are leftovers I save them for my lunch or freeze them if I can.
Also buying grain and pasta in bulk can be more frugal. Maybe I don’t have a sensitive pallet, but I don’t notice any taste different between cheap and expensive pasta. On the other hand, I don’t like buying cheap meat. I prefer to eat less of it and have something that is better quality. So now if I make a stew, for example, I use just half the amount of meat and add more vegetables. While we should be careful to save money, we shouldn’t cut back on our nutrition and should make a point of enjoying our grub. After all, it’s one of the few vices I’ve got! Oh – and avoid buying popcorn at the cinema!
Are you affected by rising food prices? Where do you source cheap food from?