Sunday, 25 May 2008
What Price Happiness?
Okay so we’re all hard up these days. Even the rich are noticing that food costs more. Gordon Brown is stacking up a raft of tax breaks to help them out. Isn't that nice of him? I'm sure the 10 pence tax band casualties will be thrilled.
Some rich people are even forsaking Waitrose for less salubrious aisles.
I shop at Iceland, and for two reasons. It’s cheap and it’s the nearest supermarket for my pregnant (did I tell you she’s pregnant?) PA. She herself shops at Iceland because she has five and a half kids to feed. She also likes their ‘You buy it, we’ll deliver it’ policy. Ideal for those who don’t trust supermarket staff to select their goods for them but still want it brought to their door. Plus carting home as much shopping as she gets through must be exhausting.
A lot of Iceland’s stuff is fine. Why pay more for store cupboard staples? What bugs me though is the distinct absence of what a friend and I have christened ‘happy chickens’ (and yes I fully expect vegetarians to find this most unfunny) and the other little perks that keep your spirits up during a credit crunch like, oh I don’t know, bags of rocket and spinach salad and red onions and Green and Black’s chocolate.
But as Sainsbury’s online just makes me spend more than my budget I tend to stick with Iceland and give my PA £20-£30 cash a week to see what she can get. She’s very creative and we eat well.
But sometimes I get fed up with budget food. So I tried an experiment today. Is it possible to make your own homemade luxury items and offset the blandness of it all without breaking the bank?
I started by totting up my crumpet consumption as it’s currently my main comfort food. I realise that when feeling particularly miserable I can get through perhaps three packets a week. Now, Warbuton’s crumpets are 67 pence for a pack of six. I consider this to be a cheap bedtime snack. And so in a bad week I spend £2.01 on cheering myself up.
Cheap but a bit samey. Plus my son hates crumpets. And they are not in the same league as chocolate.
I wasn’t going to go to Sainsbury’s today really I wasn’t, but the little voice whispering ‘chocolate brownies’ just wouldn’t go away. Then my son applied some devastating logic to my argument that it was tipping down with rain. Looking out of the window and examining the evidence he said: “There’s a lot of it, but it is quite small.”
So off I went on my increasingly clanky scooter in search of pecan nuts and organic chocolate. My son chose to stay indoors and draw cartoons. Obviously the rain wasn’t ‘small’ enough to convince him to accompany me, but the promise of chocolate brownies was enough for me to go out in it.
For the quantities in Nigel Slater’s brownie recipe, I spent 66 pence on free range eggs, £2.66 on Green and Black’s chocolate, £1.23 on unsalted butter (unheard of in Iceland) and 56 pence on pecan nuts. Yes, Nigel, pecan nuts. I don’t hold with his theory that nuts interfere with the purity of a good chocolate brownie. Nuts are essential in my book. The remaining ingredients, caster sugar, flour, baking powder and cocoa powder we had at home, and amounted to another 80 pence at Sainsbury’s prices.
That’s £5.91 for a batch of 16 brownies which comes in at 36 pence a brownie. Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference chocolate brownies work out at £5.57 for 16. Oh dear. But I bet they aren’t as nice as the ones we made. And no way would they have the top quality ingredients we used. Anyway (do you detect an argument crumbling as fast as a chocolate brownie? Have you even read this far?) you cannot possibly eat more than two brownies a day as they are so rich. I frequently however, eat two crumpets a day and that costs me 22 pence. Two brownies a day is, erm, 72 pence. Which is five pence more than a whole pack of six crumpets. Oh dear oh dear.
I set out to demonstrate that home-baked goodies are a cost effective way of enjoying a taste of luxury in these hard times of ours. I failed.
Or did I? What if the Waitrose exiles become so depressed at their new diet of broken biscuits and factory chickens that they blow £5.91 on a bottle of wine? It could well happen. But wine gives you a hangover. Chocolate brownies just make you go all warm and smiley inside. They boost Serotonin levels, sharpen brains affected by cognitive disorders, and homemade ones contain no additives. They are completely organic. As healthy as an unhealthy snack could possibly be.
My conclusion? Are you still reading? Nuts to Nigel Slater and who gives a crap about the credit crunch? Chocolate brownie anyone? Mmmmmm.