January 9th, 2008

Domestic Economy

I like to shop at Netto. Their stuff's cheap. And because it's a no frills sort of a place you don't get suckered into buying items you don't really need. The only thing against them is they don't carry much of a range of meat- and I'm not sure how ethical their suppliers are- so for that we tend to go to Sainsbury's. And Sainsbury's in so seductive. The day before yesterday we spent £16 at Netto- which covered most of our basics for the week, then trolled along to Sainsbury's for a shoulder of lamb- got dazzled by all the post-Xmas special offers- and ended up spending  £31.00- about three times as much as we'd intended.

We've been watching Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's expose of intensive chicken farming. I'm with him- and have been for years. It was my dislike of factory farming that turned me vegetarian. Now I'm eating meat again I do try to source it ethically. But you can't get away from the fact that ethically produced meat costs more. My shoulder of lamb- which was romping across open downland a week ago- cost £7.00 and for that I could buy myself three factory chickens. For people like us on a limited income-  for whom Netto is first port of call-  that ethical decision can be hard to justify.

But ethics and economy come together over the issue of waste.  Apparently the great British consumer throws away a third of everything s/he buys. That's shocking. We're well below that. The trick is to plan meals and buy only what you know you're going to eat- and not get seduced by all those offers of two for the price of one and a half. Even so it's easy to miscalculate. The things I most commonly guess wrong about are milk and bread. Our consumption of both seems to yo-yo up and down. I chucked four pints of milk down the drain the other day and I've got a couple of stale half loaves sitting on the shed roof for the birds to peck at. 

We're not poor.  We don't go short.  We just need to be careful. We can even afford to go mad once in a while- like with the Sainsbury's special offers- but maybe not two weeks in succession. I find a good way of handling the anxiety is to turn the scimping and saving into a game. Your mission- if you care to accept it- is to see how far you can come in under budget this week.  What fun!  It's like every time I turn up my nose at something pricey I've won points for my team.