Category: James Martin

Thrift is a choice for those who can afford it


to recommend thrift to the poor is both grotesque and insulting

Oscar Wilde. The Soul of Man Under Socialism 1891

He goes on to say :

It is like advising a man who is starving to eat less.

Yet isn’t that exactly what this government is telling us? To tighten our belts.

Food writers, TV chefs, glossy magazines, supermarket adverts are bombarding us with family meals on a budget, use cheap cuts of meat, grow your own veg, Save with Jamie and or Cheap and Cheerful recipes from James Martin.

Can you live on the minimum wage?

The minimum wage for someone over 25 is £6.31 per hour. If you work a 40 hour week that is just over £252 a week, or £13124 a year, £1093 a month, before tax and other deductions. If you live in a social housing almost a quarter of your income will go on rent. I have checked a local authority for properties to let, and for a one bedroom flat the rent is between £75 and £83 in West Bromwich, Sandwell. If you rent from a private landlord the rent would be an average of £99. And on top of that there are utility bills and Council Tax to pay, about £30 per week depending where you live and time of year. Add to that travelling to work by bus, that is another £12 a week if you have a bus pass or £4 a day if you don’t. Numbeo have a cost of living indicator here on which I have based these figures.

After deducting these from your £252 pay packet you would be left with £135 for everything else. Food, clothes, prescriptions, entertainment, and saving for the spectacles you need, the boiler repair and the phone bill. I haven’t even added in the cost of a TV licence or internet connection or cable.

What if you become ill?

Too ill to work. Or you get laid off. And then you have to rely on benefits. From the date of making a claim for Job Seekers Allowance and other benefits, to receiving payment, could take up to three weeks. Sometimes more if you have to be assessed for your fitness to work.

The gas bill is due and you cannot pay it. You cooker stops working and you cannot afford to replace it. To help you ‘budget’ your utility company installs a pre payment meter, which is the most expensive way to pay for gas and electric. Yet it stops you getting into debt by having bills you can’t pay. And then it snows, the temperature plummets and you have £5 to last the next three days.

What would you spend that £5 on?

And this is a scenario for a single person with no dependents. What if there were young children in the family?

Would you tell the young man working in a bar, on a minimum wage to be more thrifty? Could you tell a mom who buys food for her child and lives on tea with sugar to keep her energy levels to eat less?

To work harder?

The Living Wage Foundation work with employers to encourage them to pay a living, not minimum wage. The Joseph Rowntree Association have set a Minimum Income Standard based on what members of the public think is enough money to live on, to maintain a socially-acceptable quality of life. Both organisations agree that the minimum wage is too low.

One lightbulb

I heard of a family that only had one lightbulb. Only light the room you are in. They were not practicing thrift, it wasn’t a choice to have one light bulb. They really could not to afford to put money in the meter to pay for the electricity.

The choice to be thrifty is a privilege of those that don’t have to be

And those of us who earn much more than the minimum wage, can make a choice to be thrifty. We can decide to save for a holiday abroad, a new kitchen, a rainy day we hope will never happen. How many of us have made a choice to not eat out or have takeaways for a few months to save for something special? Have you chosen to shop at Aldi instead of Asda?  Did you chose to shop at charity shops and feel triumphant when you got a designer dress for a fiver?

Some of us can afford to be thrifty. Others don’t have that choice, it is thrust upon them. They have already cut back and the cupboard is bare. They hang around supermarkets for when items are reduced and charity shops are not an opportunity to bag a bargain but are the only clothes they can afford. If the boiler breaks they hope the landlord will fix it. In the meantime you have cold washes not showers.

This is a reality for so many people in the UK today. If they are lucky they may get a a job that pays more, that gets them off benefits. If they are not they may get a referral to a foodbank from the Citizens Advice Bureau or Local Authority.

These are the figures from The Trussell Trust. Foodbank is not a lifestyle choice. Foodbank is a life line.

  • 913,138 people received three days’ emergency food from Trussell Trust foodbanks in 2013-14 compared to346,992 in 2012-13

It will never happen to me

Of course it will never happen to you. You have a good job, a house with a mortgage, a company car and a Final Pension Scheme. Life is good. And you go to Florida on a holiday of a lifetime. On the first day back at work you get a redundancy notice.

Six months later you are still unemployed. You savings have all gone.

Your children get Free School Dinners. A grant for a free school uniform.

Twelve months later you have to attend mandatory job club, with half a dozen other middle managers and directors who, like you, thought it would never happen to them.

Eighteen months later you get a job, on half the salary you were earning before. The bills are the same, the mortgage is in arrears, and so you spend the next one, two, three, ten years paying of the debt you accumulated when unemployed.

No, this could never happen to you. It happened to me.

If you really want to know how it feels to be hungry, to have a child who was hungry, then read Hunger Hurts by Jack Monroe.

And then make a donation to your local foodbank.

James Martin – Home Comforts

I have been watching a lot of telly this week as I have been laid up with a cold.

Thanks to modern technology I can watch what I want and when I want – and having recorded Home Comforts, Saturday Kitchen and Operation Hospital Food, I have been able to see a lot of James Martin. And that is not a bad thing.

Feeling better today, I actually cooked for the first time in five days. Inspired by James, this was breakfast in bed. 







And this was Sunday supper.









The Best Crackling EVER.

The recipes can be found here. Yes, even for the bacon buttie. 🙂

And don’t you just love my vintage plates?

And if you are a regular reader you will know that I have cooked with James Martin.

Have you ever cooked with a TV chef?

Cooking with James Martin

So I won a blogging competition. On Facebook, with Thomas Cook. I don’t enter many competitions, but I’d been on a blogging course and thought why not? After all it combined the two loves of my life, travel and food. The winning post was about the first time I ever ate Moussaka on a Greek Ferry back in 1979.








Even better, the prize was a day cooking with James Martin. He is a Yorkshire man and cooks proper food, using butter, cream and salt. A man after my own heart.

So I headed off to That London and to Food at 52 to join 9 other prizewinners to do some cooking and hopefully learn something.

Weirdly, I was really nervous about the day. I don’t know why, I am rarely star struck and not into the whole celebrity thing. Indeed, when I read Hello or Grazia at the hairdressers I really don’t know who they are writing about unless it is someone from Friends. I do watch Saturday Kitchen occasionally, and wanted to know why they no longer have non famous guests on the show. Forgot to ask him that.

Indeed, I was so embarrassed at the way some of the participants were quite frankly fawning over the poor man, I was uncharacteristically quiet. Yes, me, quiet.

I was surprised that 3 of the winners were serial competition enterers and, in my humble opinion, slightly spoiled the experience: by talking over him, challenging him and frankly not relishing the experience as much as those like me who had worked hard and felt privileged to be there. One even offered to lobby the fishermen to get more cod cheeks on the market!.

Then there were the ones who thought they were as good as cooks as he is, questioning his techniques. Really, this man has far more knowledge and clout in the world of food than you ever will have. And no, I did not admire his watch as one sycophant suggested I did to ‘get in his good books’. Yes, that was suggested by one winner.

However I handled a live crab for the first and possibly last time in my life and plunged it into hot water. I did make bit of a splash, so keen was I to let go of an animal with sharp claws. James, as dry witted as ever commented, ‘It’s not Tom Daley’.

I enjoyed bashing the cooked claws and flaking the crab meat for a magnificent risotto we all enjoyed at lunch. I buttered and sugared moulds for the yummy chocolate puddings and learned the best way to peel tomatoes, which is one really handy tip I will take away with me. I used to plunge them into hot water and wait for the skin to start to peel away, now I know to plunge them into ice cold water after the hot water, so they don’t keep cooking and go all soggy. And to put a cross on the base and remove the core (or as Mom used to say, pull the plug out).

I  enjoyed the very good wine (not as much as some people did). Tasting it made me pine for New Zealand, evoking happy memories of sipping wine on bean bags at Wither Hills vineyard…… but the variety of food at lunch and at the afternoon demonstration almost made up for it.

After lunch we watched as James made pea soup, fillet of lamb, seared tuna and cheesecake. Despite having eaten well at lunch we all made sure we tasted everything.

The finale, of course, was James showing off his sugar spinning, on his cheats gateaux.

Did I enjoy the day? Yes, absolutely. The location was lovely, the food was fabulous and James Martin wasn’t up himself. Indeed he was very down to earth and didn’t mind that the tea towel he used to strain the crab shell infused oil was described by me as ‘cleanish’.

What would I do different? The community activist in me would loved to have seen it hosted at Central Street Cookery School. This is next door to the venue we were at and part of St Luke’s Trust who are doing really great things in the community. They have a roof garden and bees! How lovely if the money used to pay for the day had been invested in this community?

The organiser/control freak in me would have liked name badges so I could remember everyone’s names and James could have known who we all were, so he didn’t have to call us all ‘you’!

However when food looks as good as this and tastes even better, I can just about forgive the latter.