Remember the good old days when you could hit the bars in town during midweek, go for an expensive meal and still have the energy to get up and go to work on a Wednesday morning….. then be able to afford to do it all over again at the weekend?? For most that was before you had your own place with a mortgage to pay and probably kids to feed. Well while those carefree days may be behind you (for the time being at least),maybe it`s worth embracing your inner chef, investing in a set of sharp knives and a set of pans to recreate at home some of those culinary experiences that you used to love so much.
It`s no secret that the cost of eating out has gone up in recent times - with the average cost of a single course at a decent restaurant being somewhere around £20 and a small glass of vino to wash it down costing upwards of £5. Between the cost of hiring staff, the rising cost of food and the ever present tax on luxury goods and services the traditional meal out has become quite an expensive occasion. So if you`re the one paying the bill, a meal for four in a restaurant can easily put a hole in your pocket the bigger than your monthly utilities payment
Did I mention the increasing price of food? You might have noticed that the pound in your pocket doesn`t stretch quite as far as it used to and this applies to your local chippy, chinese take away or kebab house as much as anything else you might buy. According to an article in the Independent newspaper 16 to 24 year olds spend more on food than any other age group in the UK and there are various theories around suggesting why this might me. One rather simple explanation for those of us with multiple bills could be - `it`s because they can`…..
With the benefit of living at the hotel of mum and dad, and no interest short terms loans being provided by the `bank of mum and dad` young people in work have plenty of surplus income, limited time on their hands and a whole gaggle of advertisers chasing them for their hard earned cash. So it`s no surprise perhaps that savvy takeaway owners are targeting the youth and young adult market with mobile apps , convenient payment methods and fast delivery services and so long as they keep paying, the price will only go one way.
So having matured to the point where a takeaway is a treat rather than a staple you`ve probably noticed that all that fast food that you spent your hard earned cash on in your teens and early twenties has started to pile up around the middle. Now there`s less room in your clothes to fit the post work drink into these days. Well here`s some good news, you`re out of the advertiser`s crosshairs and into the realms of responsible healthy living. I know for those of us who like fish and chips and have precious little time for cooking it may sound unrealistic, but there are some genuine advantages.
So what do you have now that you didn`t have a decade ago? Well for openers your own kitchen and a couple of extra pounds (ok stones) to lose. The good thing about preparing your own meals is that you get to decide what goes into it so if you want take in less fat, salt, sugar, alcohol or anything else that you like and makes you happy in the pursuit of a healthier lifestyle you can. By varying your diet to include more fish, fresh vegetables and baking / grilling lean meats you can dramatically increase your intake of vitamins, minerals and fibre whilst reducing your intake of fats and sugars. Equally you can impress your significant other or family without blowing all of your spare cash on a couple of hours of luxury. It is even felt in some circles that cooking can reduce stress, so all the more reason to give it a go.
Now that you`ve made friends with your kitchen, bought the knives, pans and the full set of cook books ranging from Oliver to Ramsey surely you can start living the good life at no extra cost? Simply put no. The cost of living is on an ever increasing upward spiral. The Office of National Statistics suggests that on average we spend 10.5% of our income on food and about another 1.5% of it on booze. So an average person spends around £50 per week just on basic food and drink without the frills. Add a hand full of mouths to feed and take a pinch of limited leisure time and you have a recipe for an expensive new hobby in the kitchen if you don`t shop wisely.
So work out a budget. It will help you to stick to it by using bulk dishes like bolognese, chilli or hot pot to feed many mouths at a low cost and so having enough left for a few top line meals a week too. Buying in bulk can aso save you quite a lot, if you use something often (perhaps baked beans, rice or soup),buy cost saving multi-packs once per month rather than buying one tin / small packet per week.
So how to keep the costs down, well let`s consider all those discount leaflets that fall out of the local paper or get pushed through your door when you`re hoping for an exciting amazon delivery to land? Once the bane of your life that clogged your waste paper bin, now the best friend of a budding chef on a budget! If you can get 20% off this, a pound off that and three for two on other every shopping trip - you`ll soon have set enough aside for the luxury items needed to create your finest home dining experience.
Growing your own food? Really? Who has the time to tend a vegetable patch? Between the long working day with the ever increasing commute, time with the family and all the other little jobs that need to be done, not to mention time to enjoy your new hobby of becoming the next Master Chef winner it`s unlikely that becoming a part time farmer is particularly high on your agenda.
That said, it`s not so difficult to stick a few potatoes and onions in the earth, grow some herbs, plant an apple tree, or put a couple of potted tomato plants in the window. Ok that won`t take you very far off grid but like anything worth doing it`s worth doing well and there`s nothing quite so satisfying as sitting down to a home cooked meal made with your own home grown food and maybe a pint of your home brewed beer to wash it down with…..