A Frugal Food Challenge!

With food prices going through the roof and many people feeling the pinch at the supermarket till these days, its challenge time once again for your aspiring frugalist. MSN have set me an assault course of food-related tasks over the next month to test my frugal mettle and see if I am a man or a mouse (or should that be a woman or a mousse?).

Over the next four weeks I will attempt to beat the spiralling prices of items such as meat, cereals, bread and dairy products, by adopting a handful of different cunning, and sometimes eccentric, strategies.

When the going gets tough, the tough…go…er…foraging…of course! Week one of my challenge will see me attempt to save money on my grocery bill by learning more about wild foods and introducing them into my diet, whether weeds from my back garden or plants and berries foraged from the wilds of Essex. I will be sampling different foraged food recipes each day and examining how much they help me save on my shopping bill in the process.

The following week will see me travel back in time to the dark days of World War Two and rationing. Will I be able to stomach the dishes prescribed by the government which successfully nourished a nation on a budget and kept them fighting fit, and save cash at the till? It’ll be lashings of brawn and dried egg all round.

Low cost supermarket Aldi recently claimed in a press release to journalists that customers could save a fortune over their lifetimes if they chose to do their weekly shop there. Yet it’s possible that supermarket snobbery may keep some people away from its stores. After recovering from my WW2 rations, I will spend a week living on food from Aldi, and experience first hand how its produce compares in quality and price to that of conventional supermarkets. I have yet to break the news to DJ, who once refused to eat some mozzarella I had purchased out of curiosity from a local Lidl store. Oh dear…!

And last but not least, many of you have suggested that a vegetarian diet could help save me money because meat can be so costly. On the One Show this week Cilla Black admitted that she ate very little meat as a child growing up in Liverpool, (although she still has a fondness for offal). So my final week of the challenge will be spent sampling a vegetarian diet – no more bacon sarnies, sausages or roast dinners for me! – and experiencing what the effects are, if any, on our weekly grocery bill.

Then at the end of the challenge we shall weigh up which diet or shopping strategy saved me the most on my shopping bill. It will be interesting to see what a difference, if any, changing my diet and or shopping habits will make.

Hope you can come along for the gastronomic and financial journey! As usual I’ll look forward to your comments and suggestions.


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16 Responses to A Frugal Food Challenge!

  1. maria says:

    Sounds like an interesting challenge. As a life-long Lidl and Aldi customer (I was brought up in Germany) I can assure you it is perfectly feasible to survive on their food It really is just snobbery and I would trust them more than I trust Tesco any time. An equivalent to the British \’Which\’ magazine, but with a lot more clout, has tested the Lidl own brand sun products, as an example, and found them better quality than Nivea, which is the leading brand in Germany. Aldi\’s weekly specials on fruit and vegetable are a god send for a keen juicer and someone on a budget.

  2. rik says:

    We\’ve started to do some shopping at Aldi and found some of their products are as good if not better than the named brands, in some cases you they\’re around 1/3 to 1/2 the price too. As a "recovering" vegetarian, I\’m still not eating much meat yet, so I think I\’ll leave the brawn to you!

  3. darkrose says:

    good luck with your task, i pretty much do the food round like the old days anyways sunday roasts lasting for 3/4 days, is a down side sometimes when your child goes aw no not chicken againnnnnnnn but hey ho. I have nocticed my food shop go up by 15 pounds a week for the same stuff and i was only spending 30 pounds a week add an extra fiver for the loo rolls washing powder extra every two weeks as well, i am an avid bargin hunter though my local tescos always has the nice bread on offer my freezer has more bread in it at the moment than other food, also my larger tescos every thursday has meat on offer, i would buy local food if the lager stores hadnt made them close down, i have 3 tescos one aldi, one asda, one lidl\’s, and a sainsburys, so the smaller shops have no hope really,  i do love warbitons :S and at 60p i got 5 loaves rrp 1.19 so i cant moan, just thought id reckonmend "victory cookbook" ( nostalgic food and facts from 1940 -1954) by marguerite patten OBE isbn 0 753706830 (in case you want to check out the libaries) good luck in your challenge  

  4. Jackie says:

    I will be really interested to see how you do out of eating \’wild\’ food.  I\’ve been interested in this for ages but haven\’t done an awful lot about it.  I do, however, always make use of the supposedly \’ornamental\’ plums and cherries we have in our area alongside the paths, plus the wild sloes, blackberries and elderberries and whatever apples and crabapples I can scrounge from friends gardens to make my own jams and jellies for the year ahead.  I also try not to waste anything and am an expert is using up leftovers – a trait from when I was desperately poor!

  5. Christine says:

    Foraging for wild food is time consuming. I walked quite a few thousand miles as a youngster just stripping hedgerows of blackberries, sloes, crab apples and rose hips to be stored for the winter not to mention helping to clear the fruit canes in the garden (trees were a man\’s job due to height!!!). Mother was a full time housewife who made jam, preserves and bottled as this was in the days before freezers. Admittedly it is easier to blanch and freeze nowadays but you still have to have the time and space to do the preserving. I think that both of the above are the nub of frugality – having the time to take advantage of free food and the time as well as the ability to save it for the future. We are so used to being able to pick up the preserved produce from the supermarket freezer or out of tins off the shelves, that we have forgotten how to collect and preserve food for ourselves. We live in a society where the norm is to go out to work so that we can provide for others to do the collecting and preserving for us. Mind you – you also need to weigh up the cost of saving money on the actual cost food against the extra costs of the fuel used (gas, electricity, coal, oil or whatever) in preparing it. Perhaps the most cost effective thing that you can do for starters is to look at what you buy to ensure that you are not buying one iota more than you need.

  6. lesley anne says:

    Enjoyed reding this article and the others on the current food price crisis. I myself, have swapped shops more times than i care to remember, but i can say one thing for Aldi\’s,i have enjoyed most of their products,even tasted them!! Too many mass produced food items with no taste!!. Cant bare to think what a 2p sausage will taste like!! I\’ll leave that one out, thanks!!
    We need to have basic food groups at resonable prices, no point in going on about obesity when friut and veg has increased massively!! Recent price for bread?? £1.29??. It\’s going mad!! Good luck with your adventure and i look forward to reading the results!

  7. David says:

      There\’s Essex and Essex – I don\’t reckon you\’ll forage much in Romford or Ilford, so I hope you\’re in a more rural bit!
    Seriously, though, this is a good move.  We\’ve done a bit in the past and some stuff is really good.
    Fat hen is delicious – as good as any cultivated greens; but ground elder, nettles and elderberries are very overrated.  Fresh roadkilled rabbit, hares, pheasants etc. are great (provided they were run down, not run over!).  So you don\’t need to go completely vegetarian.  And recently reported research showed that things like bacon and sausages are actually quite bad, so we\’d be better off without them.
      Don\’t knock those "dark days of World War Two and rationing" too much – they weren\’t entirely bad.  (Well they were, but not without mitigation.)  For decades we\’ve known that those severely restricted (but balanced) diets produced the fittest healthiest generation of kids ever.  And more recent research has shown that near-starvation diets actually produce greatest longevity.  We normally consume far too much, far too unnaturally processed and fatty, rubbish for our own good.  The species hasn\’t yet evolved to adjust to the change from stone age hunting and gathering to modern \’civilisation\’;  so you\’ll actually be living more naturally and healthily.
      That said, as Christine pointed out it\’s dreadfully time consuming.  It was a full-time job for those stone age hunter-gatherers and they still didn\’t get fat on it even in an unspoilt environment full of wild stuff.  The wild bits are scattered a lot thinner on the ground now, so you\’ll need to travel widely, and I reckon it\’ll need to be by bicycle or you\’ll spend more on motor fuel or bus fares than you would on getting everything from Waitrose, never mind Aldi or Lidl.  However, provided you avoid polluted roadside verges (another thing making being tied to buses impossible) you\’ll gather stuff that\’s as organic as the best of Waitrose\’s, if a little more quirky.
      So for successful frugality you really need to make the most of that garden too, in order to reduce dependence on the wild.  And to get an allotment too, if you haven\’t already.  We did in our frugal phase, and it is definitely as close as you\’ll get to the ultimate in self-sufficiency short of dropping out altogether on a smallholding powered by a water-wheel or wind turbine.  (Though of course there\’s nothing frugal about the latter option – it would be a very expensive route to go indeed.)
      Not much time (or energy) left over at the end of the day for \’working from home\’ though!  (let alone anywhere else)
    Rik has led too sheltered a life!  I find that resistance to brawn is usually against the idea of it;  like being disgusted at the notion of jellied eel – until you try it and find out how good it is.  Brawn is actually extremely healthy, tasty and nutritious.   I remember my mother\’s home-made brawn during and after the war, and it was delicious – I\’d happily eat that again.

  8. rik says:

    I\’m not saying there\’s anything wrong with brawn, or jellied eels for that matter, there just not for me thanks. Nettles, I\’ve recently found out, I do like though (except my first trial with nettle tea!). Each to his own.

  9. Beryl and Norman says:

    Buy a simple packet of salad leaves seed. scatter in a small patch of ground or even in a flower pot or two. Water for a couple of weeks and then start to pick delicious mixed leaves for your salad. Pick just as many leaves as you need – probably much less than of a tasteless lettuce- no waste or throwing away ( composting ?) of that soggy half a lettuce from the bottom of the fridge. You\’ll soon have saved the cost of the seeds and it is so satisfying to pick them fresh and put them straight on the plate!

  10. kim says:

    Instead of buying beef mince, try turkey mince. You can pick it up at the supermarket for approx £1.38.

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