The Privilege of Economising

Here begins a project that has been at the back of my mind for a year or more…

When I was living in Stroud, Gloucestershire and involved with my local foodbank I did a project which looked at the barriers which stop people from shopping and cooking frugally. There are many. A key thing I noticed when talking to people at foodbank drop-ins and to friends and neighbours who struggle financially is that many people don’t have the kitchen capacity to cook meals with multiple stages and ingredients; which means that they are restricted to expensive pre-prepared meals. What I mean by kitchen capacity is that they may have only a single saucepan, no mixing bowl, no chopping board… and they can be the lucky ones. I met many a single guy who lived in a single room with only a kettle – sometimes only a kettle shared among many, and when that was stolen or broken sandwiches and crisps were the order of the day.

It made me realise how many ‘implements’ I use in my cooking, and how the healthy, cheap food I cook is made much easier by having a well stocked kitchen. I have also realised that taking advantage of economies of scale are often the privilege of the wealthy; whether this is bulk-buying ingredients, having a slow cooker and large pans to bulk cook, or buying clothes that are expensive but won’t fall apart after a month.

utensils

So, the project that I have had at the back of my mind. I am going to pretend from this moment that I am starting my kitchen pretty much from scratch (I probably should have done this from when we first moved to our rented place, which has a much smaller kitchen than I am accustomed to – the cupboards are overflowing and make me stressed every time I try to find something!). I am going to start with what I consider ‘basic’ (which is still more than many people have) which I have costed up as though I were buying new items from the supermarket. Everything else will go into a box and everytime I realise that there is something else that I need I will have to ‘buy’ it back, factoring in this cost to the price of the meal I am cooking. I will also start with what I consider a basic store cupboard, everytime I feel I need a different spice I will have to ‘buy it back’ from the spice store that I will put to one side – I will find this difficult! Again, the store-cupboard prices come from current supermarket prices. I have assumed at this stage that I could afford to bulk buy things such as rice, I will also use up anything which we already have which is perishable – I cannot abide wasting food!

SONY DSC

So, this is what I will start with :

Utensils (£20.50)

  • One saucepan
  • One multipurpose knife
  • A wooden spoon
  • chopping board
  • Two bowls
  • Two plates
  • (I can get a four piece dinner set from Asda for less than the individual pieces so I will do that)

Storecupboard (£18.30)

  • Cooking oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Mixed Herbs
  • Dried Chilli
  • Beef Stock Cubes
  • Vegetable Stock Cubes
  • A couple of tins of tomatoes
  • A couple of tins of pulses
  • Rice (5kg bag)
  • Pasta (3kg bag)
  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Milk

I think that more frequent washing up is going to be a side effect of this way of cooking!

I intend to go back to my strict food budget – which was £5 a week when I was on my own so now will be £10 a week. I will allow myself £10 a month to add to the utensils, if there is any left this can be spent on food or spices.

I shall call this little project ‘Kitty’s Basic Kitchen’.

So, now to start stripping my kitchen of all my privileged items! Wish me luck!