Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Living on 'takeaways' said to be cheaper than home cooked meals!

It is very possible that some may take offence at the following words. Recent reports that many families is so-called ‘poorer’ areas of Auckland are doing big spend ups at cheap takeaway food outlets because it is cheaper to use these establishments than cook a healthier home cooked meal. The example given to back this us was where NZ$10 could buy enough to feed a family of four. For that amount one could buy 4 pieces of fish, 4 fritters, 4 sausages and some chips. I have seen these ‘offerings and sometimes took advantage of them in my ‘pre-bariatric surgery days. (No wonder I achieved the giddy heights of 120 kilos!) I agree that it is possible to buy a large amount of fat-laden, sugar high and salty food that has been deep fried and a meal the ‘hots the spot’ as we used to say.
I shall try not to use a ‘sweeping brush’ approach when discussing the implications of the above ‘claims.’ Who am I to say that families on a budget should learn how to cook healthier and relatively cheaper options? Families in the south, west or any other area often used to portray the ‘less well –off parts’ of our cities have to make best with what they have. Such decisions are not confined to certain areas. The bottom line is that for a range of reasons, many families are struggling to put food on the table. Add to the mix, unemployment, lack of role models re learning good budget cooking methods and a sense that one can’t ‘do it,’ and you have all the components of a family feeling that it has few options.
There is of course the propensity to have someone else cook your food and if it can be done cheaply then why worry about how healthy it is. That of course brings about a raft of health issues that I can identify with; the difference for me is that I was ‘encouraged’ and came to a decision that ‘things don’t need to be like they have always been.’ What I am saying is that we do have choices and to break bad habits that are not entirely based on economics, then one has to take the plunge.
Can a family of 4 be fed using $10? It may come down to expectations. If one has been fed a diet of the fatty, sugary, salty and deep fried food, there is a type of addiction that traps one into that sort of option. Breaking that cycle takes time and repeated effort. If you give young children sweet stuff form the beginning, they are more than likely to spurn healthier options when they get older. The same can be said for other ‘unhealthy’ choices.
What can you buy for $10? Firstly, you don’t get the items form a local corner shop. Planning ahead is needed and that means going to local markets (most suburbs in Auckland have them now) or use the bug Asian shops or large outlets like Pack and Save. I know I have already lost some readers, because even that is all too hard. Maybe it’s time for a reality check then!
You don’t need fancy cooking implements. If you don’t have a slow cooker, then get one. Wait for a sale when they are 40% or more off or go and get one from an ‘Op shop.’ Failing that, use a big pot on the top of a stove and cook long and slowly.   Buy the cheaper cuts of meat and chuck in veggies. Use what you have and add flavourings like onion, garlic, mixed herbs, curry mixes---use your imagination. It’s amazing what your kids will come up with. Make cooking a family thing that all share in. So, ten bulks buys half a kilo of meat and some veggies. It’s going to be hard getting all the ingredients for the magic $10, but it is possible, like I said---with planning. Don’t be trapped into that---oh it’s all too much,’ feeling and revert to old bad and potentially harmful habits. Yeah, life’s hard, but with effort, the above is doable. Just look around and you will see families coping. Go back to what grandma knew. You might even learn how to make some basic ‘cookies,’ just like she made. For those grannies out there---show your grandkids how to make that ‘stew’ that you used to cook. It was filling and it costs bugger all. Sometimes we need to look back to the past so that we can cope with the here and now.