This is my ambition, and here are the four ‘rules’ I’ve evolved to achieve it.
1. Don’t eat out.
Well, I don’t mean don’t EVER eat out. It’s a lovely thing to do with friends, for special occasions, and to treat yourself to some really good quality, exciting scoff.
I mean don’t do accidental eating out. This is usually harbingered by flopping in a chair, feeling tired and uttering the words ‘I can’t be bothered to cook’. This is the moment when you order a really mediocre takeaway, or end up in a nearby pub that may not serve the greatest food. It costs a fortune and can be completely unmemorable, unsatisfying and dull.
I calculate that this rule alone has saved me about £12,000 pounds these last six years.
2. Eat in.
I enjoy cooking everything from scratch, and it really is the cheapest, healthiest way. Sorry! Double up the quantities so that you can freeze some for eating down the line, when you have an ‘I can’t be bothered to cook’ moment.
For real economy, use dishes from countries that have traditionally been quite poor. They’ve really got the hang of squeezing great tastes out of the cheapest ingredients. My favourites are India, southern Italy (la cucina povera) and Mexico.
You need a good set of spices. When I was working in London I used to go to the Hoo Hing on the North Circular Road. That’s one of the few things I miss about working life. I see they have an online store, so I shall be frequenting that very shortly. I buy whole spices and used to have a pestle and mortar, but now use my super Krups coffee grinder. That’s another whole opportunity for exercise gone.
I’ve got some odd things in my spice cupboard – dried orange and lime peel, for two. I use a vegetable peeler to cut strips of zest from my oranges in the winter before I eat them, sitting in front of the telly. I put them in a little basket on the radiator, and they make the room smell nice. They are great popped in an infusion of green tea, and really tasty when added to spice blends before grinding. Orange combines with star anise in Chinese dishes, and lime peel works well in some curries and Chilli con carne.
3. Don’t buy entertainment media.
That means DVDs, CDs, magazines and books.
We wait for movies to come up free on our communication package (BT Vision in our case – very good).
Magazines (apart from the Saga one, of course) can be such a disappointment. I don’t understand where a magazine that looks fascinating in a friend’s house is suddenly very skimpy and dull when I buy an issue myself. I use the internet now for all my magazine-type needs.
Read library books. Our library in Brixham is a lovely place. The only problem is to remember to return the books on time. Nothing brings out a tightwad apoplexy in me like having to pay a pointless fine. That issue has led me to thinking that an electronic reader would be good. Apparently the downloaded library books just conk out at the right time, so you don’t have to physically return anything. Unfortunately the readers cost £200+, so I’m still mulling that one over as a viable tightwad possibility.
4. Keep out of newsagents
They don’t sell anything us mature folk need. Cigarettes, chocolates, crisps, fizzy drinks…
When I worked in a laundry as a student summer job, back in the 70’s, I used to love getting my manila pay packet, replete with pound notes (what a memory!) on a Friday. First stop would be the newsagent’s where I would kit myself with magazines, sweets and ice-cream for an afternoon lounging in the garden (it was hot in the mid 70’s). Those days are gone now, and we just shouldn’t be having any of that.
Mel Brooks created a character called ‘The two thousand year-old man’. I love what he says at the end of the movie. When asked what his secret is, he replies ‘Keep smiling… and stay out of those little, low Italian cars’. I would add to that ‘…and newsagents’.