Pump

This isn’t a post about fuel prices, mainly because I don’t drive.

 

This is a post about a workout DVD, a workout called Pump and the negative vibes you get when you attempt to be healthy.

I’m twenty. I have a boyfriend who I like to look good for. I also have a habit on inhaling chocolate, particularly when I’m at work. So from time to time, I need to crack out workout DVDs, do a bit more walking or do some morning yoga. The reaction you get from some people makes you feel like a criminal. “Weirdo” was the scoffing remark I got from one housemate, “why?!” was another.

Maybe this is the reason we are a fat nation. We ridicule when people do attempt to get some form of exercise into their day. It’s not like I’m pushing at them to join in or anything, I’m just doing my own stuff and trying to get fit.

 

If being healthy, illness-free, energized and happy makes me a “weirdo” then sign me up to the oddball club. What’s the alternative? Yes, exactly, there’s a short sharp shock if ever there was one.

Just like bread and butter . . .

. . . You can’t have one without the other. The white flag is raised and I hang my head in a manner suitably defeatist. I cannot survive without the supermarkets. The experiment was a worthy exercise and I will never do the entirety of my weekly shop at the supermarket again. But I have learnt that it’s not possible to cut them out entirely and my reasoning is threefold.

1)      Dietary requirements.

Health food shops are expensive. The cheapest and most convenient place for me to purchase my gluten-free goodies is at the supermarket. I can get certain things at Fuzzi (a gorgeous shop in Winchester that I will post about soon) but not everything. The supermarkets are increasingly making more “free from” products available, a move I wholeheartedly support.

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2)      Reduced items

There’s no denying the fact I’m a student with a strict income. I make my money and I have a certain amount to spend on food each week. Getting the most for that money is a skill I am proud to have. I do take advantage of offers, especially when they are things I regularly consume. Dented cans really can be a lifesaver near the end of the month/week before payday (oh we’ve all been there!).

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3)      Store cupboard essentials.

Cans are worth mentioning in this point too. You can’t get canned products at market, neither can you get things like tissues, toilet roll, soap, shower gel, rice, nuts or chickpeas. These staples are found at their best price at the supermarket.

Of course, there are certain things I could buy at different places if I had the money to do so. But purposefully making life difficult for myself doesn’t seem to be the way forward. I wish I could pop to local shops and have everything provided, but sadly, the fact of the matter is that supermarkets have replaced them. A local grocer is a rare beast. However, I will never buy fresh produce from a supermarket again. The farmer’s market and the farm shop supply me with all the fresh food I could ever want at a reasonable price, and it allows me to shop seasonably. That is their best skill, providing produce for good rates. Today’s best buy of two packs of organic beef mince for £5 proves this fact. But for store cupboard essentials, the supermarkets unfortunately reign supreme.

Hunter Gatherer

I was on a quest. The elements may have not been in my favour, and I may have been hindered by an overnight bag, but I was too determined to ignore my journey. The first challenge I had to conquer was how to travel from visiting my sweetheart in Southampton to Winchester. There was snow to deal with, as well as engineering works stopping ALL of the trains. Sigh. I captured a rail replacement bus and my path began.

From the station, I ventured west, following my guide (also known as Ipod Maps). I trudged through the snow, over mountains (slight hills) and through treacherous forests (very pretty public footpaths) and at last, I reached my fated destination.

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The Good Life farm shop. I shall hereby forever more be a frequent visitor. I should have taken more pictures, but my awe of the displays caused forgetfulness. It was perfect. There were walls laden with fruit and vegetables, with labels revealing their origin. There was a huge butcher’s counter with such variety; whole rabbit anyone? I admired the cake and bread displays from afar, but got up close when it came to inspect the store cupboard offerings.

I filled my wicker basket with all kinds of delights, popping my head round to sneak a look at the truly delightful cafe. It looked like an extended country kitchen. Time forbade me from resting there today, but I will report from there at a later date. I headed to the till, praying the total would not exceed the cash I had to hand. This was the kind of middle-of-nowhere area that would not have a lot of ATM machines. My fretting was futile. I almost gasped in surprise at the total. £11.87. Mmm, that’s right. All of this fresh, local, gorgeous food for £11.87.

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Braising steak – £4.54 for 464g

Salad potatoes (loads more in brown bag) – 91p

Cooking onions (more in bag) – 33p

6 pack of Royal Gala apples – £1.99

Yellow pepper (price per weight, not by item) – 67p

Bramley apple (to make apple sauce for porridge topping) – 61p

Baking potato (destined for a curry) – 70p

Carrots (more in bag) – 37p

Garlic (price per weight) – 28p

Two packs of sesame snaps (one didn’t make it home; it was a long walk) 90p

Frozen peas (serve yourself from freezer cabinets, genius idea! Not pictured) – 57p

Now, what you see above should last me the week, but I do already have various cans and such in my cupboards, as well as a couple of leftover dinners in the freezer. But the value of what I bought just further convinces me that supermarkets are a waste of time. I will admit that store cupboard ingredients were a bit pricey (£1.10 for a can of “organic” baked beans), but I am seeking out the fair-trade shop in town to pick up that sort of thing.

I may have chickened out and jumped on a bus once I had found my way back to the station. The walk from the bus stop to my home was the last leg of an epic journey. I had accomplished the quest of gathering goods to feed myself well. I grinned. I do like a good adventure.

Oh Neigh

It sounds like something Shrek would have for dinner. Or something absurd from a Dickens book, like adding chalk to bread. But is adding horse meat to burgers really for appearance sake? Or is it another example of the trust we have in supermarkets that we rarely question their motives?

            If horse meat was popular in the restaurant set, Tesco would be shouting from the rooftops that they could emulate the foodie fashion pioneers. But they’ve hidden their dirty secret. I think failing to include it on the list of ingredients should be criminal. It’s not so much what they’ve done, but the way they’ve done it. Supermarkets seem to be constantly revealing skeletons in the closet. I remember a time when no one knew about the living accommodations of chickens and the supermarkets made sure nobody cared. It’s only when they are caught that the apologies start to fly. It beggars believe that even the company do not know what their products contain. The thought sickens me.

            I am lucky that I don’t buy a lot of pre-packed products as most of them contain gluten. But if I did, I would want to know exactly what was in them so I knew what I was putting into my body. It baffles me that so many people are in blissful ignorance about the chemicals and goodness knows what else they ingest. It’s not food, it’s a science experiment.

            The latest scandal from the supermarkets only fuels my desire to ban them from my life once and for all. The delights of the farmer’s market will fill my stores twice a month. Then I have recently discovered an independent health food store within walking distance that provides organic and fair-trade produce. And this weekend, we are driving to the local farm shop to see what seasonal, sustainable food we can pick up there. I hope to find a bus route near it so that I won’t have to rely on my housemate to drive me there bi-weekly.

            It can be done and I think the food we eat everyday is worth putting that extra effort in to. I’m going to strive towards putting my money into shops I believe in, not lining the pockets of the fat-cat supermarket owners. Who’s with me?

To market, to market

I was reading the latest issue of Woman and Home this morning as I tucked into breakfast. A small sideline article on farmer’s markets made me smile. Winchester was ranked number one. This bodes well, I thought as I polished off my gluten-free crumpet (a delicious new discovery) as that is the very place I’m heading off to now.

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One thing the article praised was Winchester’s huge choice of produce and this cannot be disputed. The bi monthly market boasts up to 90 stalls, all selling local delights from around Hampshire. The market runs all year round and even though the cold wind hurried us along, the tables were groaning with food. As a student catering for one, the quantities I buy are very reasonable and I managed to bring home the majority of my weekly shop.

Much to the amusement/disgust of my housemates, I bought a single pigeon for £1.50 to experiment with. Also in my hessian bag were two pork noisettes for £3.28, two parsnips for 60p, half a dozen free range eggs for £1 (deal of the day!) and a bag of assorted vegetables including onions, brussel sprouts and purple carrots for £1.60. The student friendly prices made me beam. It was also wonderful to take my housemates along to this week’s market. They revelled in the value of the stock and the variety on offer.

I am becoming increasingly intrigued by the ethics surrounding food. I grimace when I think about how much food has been handled before it reaches my trolley. It is unnerving also to think about what has been added to my food to retain the pristine appearance found in the supermarkets. I want to consciously eat vegetables that still have dirt on them, eggs with feathers in the box and meat that was grazing on the surrounding hills not too long ago. I no longer want to rely on the money making supermarkets that are such a hindrance to our country’s farmers. As a nation, I don’t think we should allow ourselves to be at the mercy of our imports and exports. Trade has brought such wonderful things to us, but it threatens our agricultural landscape, as well as our ability to be self-sufficient.

I want to support local businesses but I fear I am too late. Despite my success at the market, I still had to trek to the local supermarket in order to purchase milk, cereal and my specialist gluten-free rolls. The way we shop has undeniably altered since the emergence of the convenient supermarket. I hark for the wartime style of shopping, visiting the butcher’s, baker’s and grocer’s in turn. I do applaud technological advances that mean we don’t have to stand around in daily queues and can store food with greater ease. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the food we pile into our fridges is better for us.

My plan is to visit every farmer’s market this year. As for the in-between weeks, we are currently searching for a farm shop that celebrates heritage, promotes good quality food and is from a sustainable source. Just like Winchester Farmer’s Market.

Am I poor?

There was a programme on BBC Three tonight that intrigued me. “Growing up poor” seemed to strike a chord with me, thinking it would be along the same lines as my budgeted student life.

            However, I quickly realised I know nothing of the situations that were featured in the programme. All three girls were younger than me yet had faced struggles that I can’t imagine. It made my existence seem wealthy. And it made me think about things that I never realised I was grateful for.

 

1)      My qualifications

I’m lucky that I enjoyed school. I like learning and when it came to crunch time, I did get my head down and get my grades. They are not spectacular, but they are something that I will hold forever. I have big ambitions, but in any case, I have the means to provide for myself by getting any job possible.

 

2)      My work experience

Without my GCSEs, I wouldn’t have got my first job in Sainsbury’s at 17. I don’t like people who turn their nose up at working at a supermarket. A large, established company is a great place to get a foot in the door and earn decent money. Through working my weekly shifts at the supermarket, I saved money ready for Uni. Without that starting point, I wouldn’t have gathered enough for my CV to be able to work at Cath Kidston. I now work in the prettiest shop in the high street, thanks to doing time stacking shelves.

 

3)      My large collection of possessions

            In the programme, it was a highlight for one of the girls to finally be getting an oven. I use the oven/fridge/microwave/sink everyday without even pausing to think about it. I have an overflowing bookshelf. I have a wardrobe full of clothes. I have two different sets of sheets. I have a drawer filled with lovely notebooks. I have the   opportunity to choose what kind of hair products I used because I have the money to do that. It seems so insignificant, but it’s something others don’t have.

 

I do now feel incredibly lucky to live the lifestyle I do. I work hard, but at least there is the glow of a positive outlook pushing me on. One thing I didn’t understand is why young girls are still getting pregnant. Protection is overly available and the lack of responsibility is overwhelming. But this aside, I still think all three girls are incredibly brave for keeping their heads high during such tumultuous times. This programme is airing at such a key time, with the benefits system a hotly debated topic. I think the documentary makers have done a brilliant job about why our benefits system should be applauded, not condoned.

A fresh approach

Nigel Slater is changing the way I think about food.

I have fallen into his book, Kitchen Diaries II, and become enraptured by every chapter. Frantic searches on amazon.co.uk have already taken place in my bid to own the first in the set.

Mr Slater’s description keeps me reading avidly. I’m a sucker for good description – my favourite book ever is The Wind in the Willows. Like Kenneth Grahame, Nigel Slater’s writing transports you and your sense through the page. I love feeling involved in a book. Plus, all of the recipes seem achievable so my involvement will soon be a reality.

But this is more than just a recipe book. It disregards the notion of food purely as fuel for our bodies. The way Slater writes about food conveys his sense of sheer joy at being surrounded by it. That passion is passed on to the reader and the delight of food carries on.

One thing that stirred my envy was the bountiful kitchen garden Slater has at his disposal. It got me thinking and the events that followed have become blurred. I was suddenly buying gardening gloves and containers. I loaded a trolley full of pots of fresh herbs. I had signed up to a gardening club? I have never been allowed to stretch my green fingers before and living in rented student accommodation means there are still restrictions. However, we are lucky enough to have a large garden with plenty of room for pots. Armed bravely with my wishful thinking and some compost found in the garden, I quickly fixed up this beauty.

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Now, I’ve probably put the wrong plants together or planted out of season or what have you. But I couldn’t be more chuffed with my efforts. And I was surprised about how cost efficient this set up was. Seeing as the compost was foraged and the container was from Poundland, I only had to buy the herbs which were really quite reasonable for the amount of use I will get out of them.

What better way to celebrate my new found access to fresh herbs than a simple dish. A plate of sweet potato rosemary wedges. My housemate has a Tefal Actifry machine which I stole borrowed for the evening. Free herbs, pence for the smidgum of oil, two sweet potatoes at 56p – we’re talking dinner for under a pound! Much healthier and cheaper than chip shop fare, and oh so delicious.

I branched out on the second night, combining fresh thyme and rosemary to my normal homemade tomato sauce. Gosh, what a flavour hit. This dish confirmed for me the difference between dried and fresh herbs and what all the chefs have been preaching. I feel enlightened.