Wednesday, 9 June 2010

in which i knit my own yoghurt

Q: What's the difference between milk and nice expensive Greek yoghurt? A: Eight hours in a warm airing cupboard.
It's just under two weeks until George Osborne's Budget of Doom, my deadline to hack back my spending to downshifting-friendly levels. So this week, I knocked a good 15 per cent off the weekly supermarket shop by instigating three new rules.
1. Goodbye A Leading Supermarket Chain, hello (whisper) Lidl. Shopping here is a bit like going back to the Seventies: strip lighting, strange German brands you last saw inter-railing, and none of that wafting-bread-smells guff supermarkets use to convince you they are actually a leisure experience.
Not everything is cheaper, although the fruit and veg is a steal: luxury stuff like mangos and avocados is half the price. And I had to go elsewhere for some stuff Lidl doesn't sell (breadflour, kids' toothpaste, chicken that looks like it occasionally enjoyed the use of its own legs). But the main reason the bill was faintly unbelievable is that the general ambience encourages one to get the hell out fast, thus spending less.
2. Once it's gone, it's gone. No nipping back to the shops midweek for anything other than cornerstones of human civilisation (coffee, looroll, milk for offspring). If an ingredient needed for dinner turns out to be missing, alternative dinner must be improvised.
3. No more convenience foods. And I don't mean readymeals. The breadmaker I'm often too lazy to use has been hauled out: a loaf in this costs about half its shopbought equivalent. Enough pizza dough for two pizzas, topped with rocket from the garden and oddments of meat and cheese from the back of the fridge, costs less than a tenth the price of a takeaway.
As for the yoghurt, I used this Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall recipe: heat milk, stir in a bit of (bought) posh live yoghurt, leave somewhere warm overnight et voila: yoghurt that tastes like the brand it was made from, but a quarter of the price.

The thing about downshifting is you move from being cash rich but time poor to being skint, but with free afternoons. And that means the time I won back by giving up my Proper Job isn't exactly free: some of it has to be re-invested in fiddlier but cheaper ways of living.
The saving grace is that this is stealth economising: should one not want people to know one is saving money, simply pretend to be making one's own bread from sheer, smug Cath Kidston-style oneupmanship. Nobody need know that the reason for the homemade gnocchi is that it's a fraction of the price of deli stuff (it's just mashed potato, egg and flour - how have I paid through the nose for this for years?)
Unless, of course, you blog about it.


  1. Oooh get you. Very 'during the war' dear ;-)

  2. Now the yoghurt thing I just don't get. To make yoghurt, you have to, well, buy yoghurt. Why not just eat the bought stuff and have done with it? Plus if I remember rightly HFW wanted all sorts of funny milk to make his recipe, which probably works out more expensive than just buying the stuff doesn't it?

    But on Lidl, I'm with you. Nearest supermarket to the new house? Lidl. Loving it. Even if it does smell weirdly foreign.

  3. I shop at Aldi all the time, nothing to be embarrassed about. I even *hush* use their carrier bags to people know I've been there. This last point is a real cause of embarrassment for the Teengager though, who keeps trying to hide them. Tsk.

  4. so you think making stockings out of painted on gravy browning would be going too far, Gappy? *rethinks strategy*
    and planb, you only have to buy yoghurt once - you can then make the next lot from the dregs of the one you made. Lidls aside, glad the move seems to be going well for you...

  5. I have found it wise to read the labels very closely in Lidl and Aldi. Many of their products contain hydrogenated fats. I still shop there, but only buy very specific things. Good fruit syrups for jazzing up homemade yogurt, though.

    T*sco have a special cheapo range that they introduced to compete with the discounters. Worth checking out if you are as skint as we are (2 disorganized freelancers with children who have bottomless appetites).

  6. Sssssshush don't tell people how simple gnocchi is - I make mine (spinach mostly) and make out its terribly difficult

    Bread making is lovely - so satisfying, kneading is my best stress relief

  7. Very funny! I would be slightly afraid of... well, botulism with the whole yoghurt thing!!But good luck there.You have made me think though - maybe I will make a bit of bread today... Sarah

  8. We're making our own gnocchi tonight on your recommendation! Just hope it doesn't sink to bottom of pan and stay there! On there's a page on things to go for and things to avoid at Lidl, Aldi etc, as apparently there are some products they reserve for us Brits which German and Spanish housewives won't stand for!

  9. We're just not poor enough yet for some of this. I do make my own pizza dough and pasta sauces, never buy cakes, grow some of own veggies but it's for health and hobby reasons. Can't be bothered (plus don't like the mileage)shopping at more than one supermarket a week, if that, top up at the co-op which ain't cheapest but is fab and ethical and is walking distance with my very unfashionable tartan shopping trolley (bought ages ago by mother in law when she visited and needed one for shopping), would so like an orla kierly one but it would mean throwing this one away, so have to pretend it's vintage or vivienne westwood.