curiosity about the ways of the world

Time for comfort food


With capitalism crashing about our ears I have been busy in the kitchen. Making marmalade might not save the household from financial disaster but there is something comforting about tucking into home-made breakfast while the credit crunch devours another victim on the morning radio. So the consumer boom is over. That doesn’t mean we have to stop eating good food.

Ever since I made my first really successful batch of marmalade earlier this year I have become very pernickety about what I spread on my toast. When we ran out of seville marmalade I began to experiment with the three fruit recipe in my Paupers Cookbook (there’s a topical title, reprinted from the 1970s edition when we really did have inflation and interest rates in two figures). Orange, grapefruit and lemon worked well but last weekend there wasn’t an orange in the house so I made do with grapefruit and lemon and that tastes pretty good too.

It’s hardly survival food but making things is very satisfying, especially when you can eat the results. Until recently, making anything at all had become a pretty old fashioned idea. Why get your hands dirty when you can go shopping? But home cooking could make a come back. I’ve been meaning to start a blog about eating better for less money: how to feed four for a fiver, or something along those lines. But I haven’t got round to it and of course its probably already too late. After all even Waitrose is promoting cheaper cuts of meat for healthy family meals.

“Don’t buy ready-made meals: you’re paying for someone else’s labour.” Credit Action

All of which might sound glib when the charity Credit Action reports that UK personal debt is currently at £1,449bn. The average household debt in the UK is £9,475 (excluding mortgages), on average each UK adult owes £30,270 (including mortgages). And 104 houses are repossessed every day.

So how to cut costs? Credit Action offers some practical advice including energy saving tips, buying clothes from charity shops and trying good old fashioned home cooking.

If I ever get round to that ‘feed four for a fiver’ blog I will have to spend a lot of time checking and comparing the prices of raw ingredients. But the marmalade does give some idea. I estimate that it cost £4. 97p to produce 12 jars of marmalade from 2 grapefruit, 4 lemons and 2.5 kilos of sugar. Admittedly I haven’t allowed for energy costs and two hours of gas (an hour and a half simmering to soften the fruit, a quick boil to reach setting point) is likely to add a hefty price. But Tesco’s finest marmalade is £1.05 per jar. And it doesn’t taste as good.

There’s another twist to the sorry tale of consumer debt. Rising food prices have not yet stopped our wasteful habits. According to Credit Action a third of today’s domestic shopping will end up in the bin. According to WRAP, the government recycling agency, we chuck away £10 billion worth of food every year. Not my marmalade, we don’t.


No prize for spotting there are only 10 jars in the picture, the others wouldn’t fit in the tray…


  1. Administrator

    Hi Lisa, (must do something about my comments as administrator, sounds kind of Orwellian)

    It’s good to stir, specially when you are mixing sugar in with the fruit (warming the sugar in the oven first helps to speed that up) otherwise it can stick and burn. I did produce some rather dark and toffee-tasting marmalade last year.

    Soup sounds good too!

  2. Lisa

    Mmmm. Dougie is a huge marmalade fan, and his dad is an even bigger one. How popular would I be at Christmas if i followed your example here? For my part, I am making vast quantities of yummy soup, with ingredients bought from a local farm shop which makes lunch at work cheaper and tastier. Haven’t tried marmalade or jam though. Is there lots of therapeutic stirring involved?

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