-Prise one limp, mouldy leek from very back of fridge. Peel away 2 or 3 mouldy outer layers, rinse off remaining mould and chop.
-Appraise last 4 carrots. Cut away brown, slimy bits, peel and chop.
-Chop last two bendy sticks of celery. Use leaves to increase flavour.
-Notice out of date pancetta scraps, sniff cautiously.
-Defrost half a pack of mince.
Add ingredients to pan and fry off. Add one tin of basic tomatoes, one litre of stock and cook gently for 1 1/2 hours. Serve with rice.
Nothing sums up the divide between journalists, Westminster and real people better than the bemused astonishment of affluent Londoners surrounding the Sainsbury's "Feed your Family for a Week for £50" campaign.
Amazed and incredulous, the all-organic "stock simmering" classes (Times, Thursday May 18th) think this quaint experiment has landed from a 1950s austerity planet. "Toast and jam for breakfast???" "The kids wouldn't touch the sausage hotpot" "No snacks??" One reads these articles with a sense that the family have gone to observe poverty in Africa for the week, so alien is the concept of cooking on a strict budget..
Of course, it has fuelled the debate that it is Sainsbury's running the campaign. Last stop for those in genuine poverty and first for the suburban Delia-Mums, I imagine the experiment would have been roundly ignored had it been launched by Asda.
The only thing that astonishes most of the country is that it should even be a subject for discussion. The "budget" takes no account of cleaning products or toiletries. No drinks or clothes. Most families do feed their families on £50 with varying degrees of resourcefulness. Are there no "stock simmerers" living in poverty?
There are two ways to go:
1) Shop at Freezer Store.
Buy bland, tasteless slabs of frozen crap, serve them up with a bit more frozen crap (though vegetables or fruit are, obviously, optional with this plan) and follow with a slice of frozen crap. Make lunches with cheap ingredients no longer related to their original source. Add a carton of sweeteners and flavourings. Buy a bottle of cheap sweeteners and flavourings to serve at home, a mega cheap bumper pack of frozen "lollies" (actually just more sweeteners and flavourings) and 2 or 3 packs of very cheap biscuits and crisps.
2) Devote your life to bargain hunting.
-Go straight to "reduced items" buy whatever meat or fish doesn't look too on-the-turn and shop around them. Make the "reduced item" aisles your friend.
-Buy tins of pulses and tomatoes, a few tasty spices and a big bag of preferred starch (we like rice)
-Make a chicken last three days (roast, curried, then stew with vegetables.)
-Try your local Pick-You-Own farm - it's addictive.
-Discover your local market for the "Two for a paaaand" fruit and veg or the "Not just one pack, not two but THREE packs of top quality meat" fella. The quality is often excellent.
-Embrace Lidl. They sell much better quality budget food than Tesco with fewer additives, highly discounted European products and seasonal, well priced fruit and veg.
-Turn leftover fruit into smoothies or sauces or pies
-Grow your own herbs and favourite veg in pots or take an allotment
-Serve cheap starch with every meal.
Is it really any surprise that many families go for the first option? Consider long workdays, children's clubs and housework. Is it really any surprise that we face an obesity crisis? Is it actually something we should be judgemental about? (and we are) when millions of families living in poverty have little other option?
The terrifying question of the times should be "What happens when budgets are squeezed even more?" What gets cut as families living in poverty already live to the bone? Is it possible to make a chicken last four days? (sort of) What happens when there's just nothing to go in the lunch boxes at the end of the week? How many Desperation Stews can you get away with? Dare you try the 20 frozen "sausages" for £1?
The Sainsbury's furore highlights perfectly the problems our country really faces. Millions of shoppers chuckling wryly that £50 would be a relief, while the affluent, London-centric, organic brigade view the whole thing as an implausible joke. Most columnists draw the conclusion that you probably can feed a family of four for £50 a week, but that it is a joyless and unethical process.
Well, yes, it is. Food ethics simply have to take a back seat to hungry bellies. Innovation and flair is certainly possible, but it takes dedication and time. Protein will be low, starch plentiful and treats almost unheard of.
As relieved Islington lab-rats return gratefully to their delis and morning granola, the real tragedy is the millions faced with the daily grind of food poverty. The millions of families who live the Sainsbury's "experiment" every day.