Please pay attention. This is the next big thing. Well, in ‘foodie’ terms anyway. The Skint Foodie has been a well kept South London secret on Twitter for a year or so now. His wry (or in this case Rye, for Skint is a Peckham resident) observations on everything from life to the price of eggs (so often related, we find) have won the follow-ship of hundreds.
And then, just a week or so back, the Skint Foodie blog appeared. Not a nervous, faltering embryonic affair, but a fully developed wonder with over 200 handy skint recipes. Along with a lot of handy hints on skint shopping. This is a blog that everyone should read. For an awful lot of reasons. Not least because it proves that you really can pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again. And also that you don’t need a great deal to eat well. A book deal is surely just round the corner.
We persuaded the penniless gourmet to answer a few questions...
You make no secret of the fact that you suffered from depression. Is food part of the cure?
It’s fundamental. And I don’t mean just for me. The vital importance a good diet plays in improving or maintaining a person’s psychological as well as physical well-being hasn’t ever really been a factor in the treatment of mental illness. But I think that is slowly changing.
You make much of shopping locally. And yet some of your averred fave ingredients are pretty hard to source...
Are they? I can’t think of any offhand. The furthest I travel to buy food is to the wondrous Gazzano’s on Farringdon Road – and that, from Peckham, is an easy journey on the 63 bus. Maybe you mean when I was banging on about Mostarda di Cremona (Italian fruits in a mustard syrup) on Twitter the other week. That is not all that easy to find, true.
Do you reckon skint foodie living could be adapted to suit whole families?
I think everyone should eat food that tastes great and gives pleasure at every meal, every day. That principle applies whether you live alone, as a couple or as a family.
How much do you spend a week on food?
What I spend, by coincidence, happens to hover around the figure for food and non-alcoholic beverages recommended by the Minimum Income Standard Project for a single adult household - £46.31. But that is absolutely everything. A lot of people say they spend a lot less when in fact what they’re quoting is their weekly supermarket shop, ignoring restaurant meals, lunches at work, kid’s school dinner’s etc.
But I’d like to make a couple of things completely clear if I may. Firstly, because of my love of food, I’ve cut out almost any other expenditure apart from utilities to enable me to eat as well as I can. Quite rightly, a lot, probably the majority, of people would have very different priorities. Secondly, I’m almost twice as better off as someone on JSA. If you’re in that position, particularly if you live alone, you have no choice other than to simply stave off hunger by spending as little as possible on food.
Do you buy stuff being sold after its best before dates?
I certainly use a lot of stuff after the best before date, especially jars with ‘use within x days after opening’ instructions – I just keep all opened jars in the fridge.
Were you to become a wealthy foodie would you choose to live very differently?
I would eat out a lot more. I haven’t eaten out since last summer (but I am going to Pizarro in a few days!). I decided a while ago that I would never leave where I live now, and I don’t need much ‘stuff’ anymore. One thing I would do is buy all the books I’ve had to borrow from the library in the last six or so years. And I do miss travelling.
What’s your favourite indulgence?
Going to Ayres, the bakery on Evalina Road, at six in the morning and buying two plain ring doughnuts straight out of the oven and bringing them home to have with a coffee made from Square Mile beans.
Oh - and cheese. You can eat fantastic meat and even fish dishes if only you stick to the cheaper options, but there is no cheaper option for a really good cheese. So it’s an occasional treat.
What is your top tip for skint shopping?
Always plan your week’s tally of meals before you go shopping and only buy the exact quantities of ingredients you need. Planning allows you to accurately budget your weekly spend, and knowing how much and what to buy means you should have little to no wastage.
Have you ever been sick on the tube?
It’s one of the few places where I haven’t been sick.