Five ways to eat well with rising food prices


Henry Howard gives his advice to students interested in finding unique shortcuts to cutting down their food bills

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Image by Anna Shvets

By Henry Howard

Given the cost of living crisis we find ourselves in, for this edition of Nouse I will be offering some shortcuts and advice for how to cut down food bills given the country’s current financial predicament. I am going to list my top five cost of living ingredients, which are not only delicious and cheap but different from the usual student foods and far more interesting.

1: Offal and Offcuts
As a rule, if you can and if you care about either the environment or animal welfare, don’t buy meat from supermarkets. Don’t get me wrong, supermarkets are great for all sorts of things, like industrial quantities of Diet Coke or toothpaste. But for meat, I’d give them a miss. A whole chicken in Aldi, for example, is both concerningly cheap and is wrapped in enough plastic to kill a small whale. For conventional cuts of meat, the butcher is obviously more expensive, so for students, offal and offcuts are a better option. Offal is the organs of the animal and is usually wonderfully cheap. Lamb livers and kidneys are prime examples and can be used in all sorts of dishes from stews and curries or just on toast with black pepper. Offcuts too are dirt cheap, and in fact some butchers will give them away for free. Chicken carcasses usually come with lots of meat still on them to pick off and can be boiled up into broths and stocks which are perfect for soups or risottos.

2: Alternative Grains
If you’ve gone to the effort of reading this, you may already be a member of the church of Ottolenghi. If you aren’t, then you must join straight away. Spiritually, it’s much less complicated than the other major faiths and from a culinary perspective far more rewarding. As opposed to rice and pasta, alternative grains like bulgur wheat and pearl barley (staples of the Ottolenghi diet) are as easy to cook and more nutritious than their dreary counterparts. Although they are a little more expensive, once you consider that you can get all of the carbohydrates and proteins you need from them and that they therefore don’t necessarily need to be accompanied with meat or fish, they’re an obvious and enjoyable cost-effective option.

3: Wonky Fruit and Vegetables
The website “Wonky'' claims that 45 percent of fruit and vegetables are thrown away, with over 40 percent occurring in production or supermarkets, due to “aesthetic reasons or slight damage”. This is a disgusting fact and even if the number was half of what it is it would still be abhorrent, especially when you consider how many people struggle to eat at the best of times, let alone in the current crisis. Thankfully, more and more supermarkets as well as smaller independent suppliers such as Oddbox are selling superficially damaged fruit and veg at knockdown prices. In Aldi, you can buy 650g of ‘Wonky Mushrooms’ for £1.65, which is just ridiculous value. With offers such as this available, wonky fruit and veg should be an essential for all students.

4: Tinned Food
Forget about baked beans. Well don’t forget them, because they’re delicious, but as tinned foods go they’re a little bit dull. They scream of a lack of confidence and ambition. If baked beans were a trainer, they’d be Air Force 1s. That’s not to say that tinned foods can’t be brilliant and interesting. Tesco sells a tin of “Three Bean Salad” (Cannellini, Flageolet and Adzuki), for only 80p, which as the name implies can be used to bulk up salads or jazz up chillies. Tinned fish though is where the real gold is found. Sardines are never more than 50p and can be used in innumerable ways and are whilst also being terribly good for you. Either added to cheese toastie or eaten straight from the tin on a hazy Thursday morning, while nursing a Berocca. All in all then, a must have for students.

5: Game Meat
Game meat shamefully isn’t readily available in supermarkets, as game meat is rarely eaten in this country outside of rural areas and swanky restaurants. As many as 27 million pheasants are shot every season in the UK and according to a survey conducted by the real estate agents Savills, on average only 48 percent of the birds are taken by game dealers. Clearly then, we need to shoot less and eat more pheasants. And this is where students come in. Due to the excess supply of all game, not just pheasants, but pigeons, geese and venison to name a few, the meat is incredibly cheap and perfect for students. Furthermore, game meat is not only the most delicious, but also by some distance the most environmentally sustainable and ethically sound meat available.