Saturday, 26 January 2013

Rip off Britain?...

After spending too much at Christmas, having the hot water tank split on our rented out property, oh and a tax bill to pay we have had to do some serious money juggling. 

I've also been toying with the idea (for a long time) of buying a suitcase generator to take some of the strain from the engine charging and potentially save money over a longer period. I will need to see exactly how much can be potentially saved per month and see what the pay back time would be, but that won't be enough on its own we will have to spend a little less. 

Most of our costs are fixed; licence, insurance etc and a lot are variable to a lesser degree, diesel, servicing, coal etc. The only area that is a quick fix and easier to control is food shopping. 

It is an area that I am confident, and I think competent, in as cooking (and eating) is a hobby of mine and was my career for a couple of decades. I still love experimenting and learning new things, I even cooked yesterdays dinner using a spice commonly known in India as "devil's dung"! 

I am not alone in trying to cut down supermarket bills, and I wouldn't mind betting that nationally I am part of the vast majority. So what would be on your list of good old budget 'British' food. 

OK No#1 has got to be good old bangers. After that probably anything made with mince; shepherds pie and of course a good old British spag bol :-) . Turkey has featured on loads of home menu's over the years and is healthy and very versatile. I haven't left out the obvious benefits of vegetarian meals, and we choose to eat vegi at least a couple of times a week mainly because vegetables last longer! 

So is that a job done then, not quite. As I said I think that lots of families will be looking at British staples to save money in these times of austerity and looking square into the eyes of a triple dip recession and of course the supermarkets are doing their bit to help, telling us how much cheaper they are than each other and how many prices they have rolled back but are they all a bunch of lying shyster's?

Its not hard to look a little closer at what you're buying. The first rule is to look at buying food organoleptically, a word used by idiot trainers in the catering industry to try and stamp a level of authority and superiority over the attentive students. I remember attending a regional training event where the speaker completely embarrassed herself by not only insisting on calling it 'organopholeptically' obviously needing the extra syllable but also correcting a colleague who gave a very accurate and concise description of how microwaves work by saying ' no, it works by bouncing these ziggy zaggy things round like in the picture' - good grief.

Organoleptically - use your senses. We all buy the first melon of summer by picking it up, squeezing it and giving it a sniff to see if it is up to mustard so we have already used three senses (two if you do your shopping with your eyes shut). For us purse string pulling penny watchers, whilst checking quality we are also scanning prices. So back to the supermarket shysters and take a look at how much we can save with our meals of spag bol, bangers and mash or even turkey stir fry for a treat. 

I have noticed over this year that the price of cheap staples has increased where as more expensive options haven't really changed or may have even come down. The average banger in the average supermarket is priced as a luxury item. I have checked tinternet today for the prices Richmond, walls and own brand (not ultra budget) sausages at Asda, Sainsbury's and Tesco's. The average price per kg of those three products is £4.41 at Asda, £5.10 at Tesco's and £5.24 at Sainsbury's. It shows two things, firstly, Asda is cheapest secondly, they are all bloody expensive. The worst was Tesco's Walls sausages at £6.04 per kg - what a rip off. 

How about British mince, again averaging the prices of standard mince and minced steak (so not ultra value or taste the difference kind of qualities) Asda £5.88, Tesco's £6.55 and Sainsbury's a whopping £7.50 per kg for mince. Its the same with turkey breast strips or slices £8.22/kg at Asda, £8.63 at Tesco's and £9.35 at Sainsbury's

So is the vegi isle the only option? No not at all, you just need to look at the next quality up! Kind of the opposite to Martin  Lewis on money saving expert's idea of downshifting a brand to a cheaper level (ie downshift from taste the difference to standard sausages) my idea is to scrap what is perceived as a cheap item and buy a less regularly bought item instead, or at least buy much better food for the same money!

For less money than Sainsbury's turkey escalopes (£9.35/kg) you could buy Asda's pork fillet (£8.50/kg), even Sainsbury's own is only 14p/kg more!  So that is swapping, for similar money, meat that is considered a cheap item for one that is a luxury you will only find on high end restaurant menus jostling for space with game and Sea bass. 

Best value by far across all supermarkets are whole fresh chickens. We buy one 1.6kg ish chicken a week and get five good dinners out of it. OK it takes a bit of know-how to learn to butcher it into portions but its a skill worth learning. We usually get a stir-fry, a curry, a casserole, a pie and big pan of soup from each one and the price per kg is £2.76 at Asda, £2.52 at Tesco's and £2.86 at Sainsbury's. Oh and all three shops have multi buy deals as well!

If we have to use supermarkets, let's not let them rip us off eh :-) 


  1. Very informative and interesting! Thanks for sharing your comparisons. Although ASDA's is cheapest I refuse to shop there because they are owned by Wall-Mart (Mallwart.) I boycotted them for 6 very good reasons in the U.S. so I will stick with Tescos. We stopped by teh Waitrose in Campbell Park 2 days ago and compared prices on several items I usually purchase at Tesco's. Waitrose was ridiculously expensive. Why anyone would waste money paying more for the privilege of shopping at Waitrose when they will get the same items at a better price elsewhere makes we wonder...stay warm and dry!

  2. Hi guys

    Hope you're well. Been quite jealous of your log collecting, we're off in about three weeks, Deb has a few more weeks work first.

    See you out there!