More for less: Smart shopping

More for less: Smart shopping

If eating well at home seems like an expensive business then you’re not shopping in the right places. Donald Reid points the way and explains why quality produce always offers value-for-money

There’s a line of impeccable logic that applies whether you’re rich as Croesus, as poor as a church mouse, or somewhere in the middle. We all have to feed ourselves to stay upright. Eating food involves getting hold of it and preparing it. The more control we keep over those two elements the more we control its cost and quality, and ceding that control to the convenience of supermarkets and their bottom line prices is often false economy.

Shopping and cooking might seem like a chore, but the minute you hand over those responsibilities to someone else you’re either compromising quality (if it’s ready meals or takeaways) or paying sweetly for the privilege (if you’re eating out).

Effective cooking starts with smart shopping. Rather than simply plucking the nearest 2 for 1 offer in a supermarket, smart shopping is all about getting proper value. Donald MacPherson of Borders-based Well Hung and Tender, who sell their Aberdeen Angus beef at Edinburgh Farmers’ Market, acknowledges that supermarkets sell cheaper meat, but points out that it’s significantly inferior. ‘Like for like on quality we’re cheaper,’ he argues, ‘and if you go for different cuts you’ll find that things such as spale bone, shin or flank have great flavour if they’re hung properly and cooked slowly.’

Another part of the smart shopping equation is getting to know nearby small shops such as delis, butchers and other specialists. According to Jenny Schofield of Real Foods, the wholefoods shop with branches in Edinburgh’s Broughton and Tollcross districts, some of the best advice for budget shopping is to plan your meals for the week. ‘If you stick to your plan you will be less likely to impulse buy expensive goods or buy things you already have in the house. You can also vary your diet better if you plan it – the key to healthy eating.’ She recommends buying versatile foods as a canny way to shop. ‘Pearl barley, for instance, can be made into a warming winter broth and a nourishing risotto. It’s filling and full of B vitamins.’

Donald MacPherson also offers a reminder that value shouldn’t always be counted in pounds and pennies. ‘At a farmers’ market you’re putting money back into sustaining the countryside, rather than into a shareholder’s pocket. The other beauty of the market is that you can ask questions and get advice about cooking from folk who know what they’re talking about.’

Edinburgh Farmer’s Market is at Castle Terrace every Saturday, 9am-2pm. Glasgow Farmer’s Market is at Queen’s Park on the first and third Saturday of each month, 10am-2pm, Mansfield Park (corner of Dumbarton Road and Hyndland Street) on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month, 10am-2pm, and Silverburn Shopping Centre on the last Sunday of each month, 11am-3pm.

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