Considering the aim of so many of us to become more frugal in our lifestyles, I was rather looking forward to this series hoping I could pick up some useful tips.
Alas, the series wasn't aimed at me at all.
I've only seen the first episode of the series and was hugely disappointed. The family featured were presented as being of modest means, but judging by what they were spending on food each month (over £800!!!) and imagining the mortgage or rent on their house in addition to this, this was definitely a family who earned well above the average wage in Britain. So much so that they could afford never to cook their own food, each family member (3 young boys and a husband and wife) consumed either individual pre-packaged 'ready meals' that required heating up in a microwave or oven or food that had been delivered by a local Take Away.
Getting a family with these kind of habits to save money (£4k a year) by preparing their own food was hardly going to be a revolutionary concept.
The best advice was about learning to make a few base dishes, like basic braised mince, and then incorporating this into 'tumbledown' recipes (like chili con carne or cottage pie). But this is second nature to me, my 'base dish' equivalent would be a sofrito 'sauce' using tomatoes, onion and garlic.
And so I wondered who would actually benefit from this program. I already prepare my food from scratch, but as a way to economise, being encouraged to make macaroni cheese with artichoke hearts acquired from a delicatessen is not the most helpful advice for becoming more frugal. The only 'universal' tips I remember were about saving seeds discarded from a chili pepper to use in another dish (although can't think of any time I've ever wanted the heat from a chili pepper and none of the flavour) and that by buying a pepper plant one can bring down the cost of chilis to 2p a pepper. Unfortunately, when I look at my weekly expenditure, chilis are already one of the cheapest ingredients I cook with - they may cost a bit from a supermarket, but at 'ethnic' groceries they cost a pittance. Still, if I follow the advice from this first TV episode and make the investment in a chili plant and, if it doesn't die in my basement home, I could potentially save a whole 10p a week!!!
Sadly I can't imagine that any family that currently subsists on ready meals and is intimidated by the idea of preparing food from scratch will leap to the challenges and opportunities of this program. "Economy Gastronomy" has made me re-evaluate Delia Smith's last book. I'm becoming even more convinced that she was really onto something here. It's just too much to ask a family like this to change everything, but encouraging them to compromise by adapting pre-prepared foods seems like a much more feasible goal.