Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No ….it’s Tesco!!!
For years I’ve watched many a foodie show on subscription television and in recent years the food habits of the UK (where many of the shows originate) has been under close scrutiny. Superstar chef’s have made efforts to educate the Brits of their wayward eating habits and attempt to revolutionise the kitchens of the UK with varying success. ‘Ready-made’ is the trend here with old-school ‘like Grandma used to make’ cooking being a long gone memory. Granted, the lure of no-fuss catering is very attractive. I know myself after a long day, getting home at 6pm after additional errands and mum’s taxi (and I only have one child), and already having spent most of my day in a kitchen the last thing I feel like doing is a bunch of food preparation and cooking. If I didn’t have the skill or only needed to look after myself I could see how this would pose quite the challenge for people (and especially busy working mums) in this modern day. As the celebrity chef’s ‘help’ these wayward folk to learn some skills it becomes apparent some of them don’t even know where to find ingredients in their local store, they just don’t go down those aisles!
In addition to this, Jimmy Doherty of “Jimmy’s Farm” acclaim recently took on ‘Tesco’, a large chain supermarket here in the UK, to challenge some of their ultra-cheap mass produced foods and offer more animal-friendly farmed goods. Modern day farming techniques have resulted in a food source that is often depleted in nutrition or for great quality means great expense. In the effort to supply cheap affordable food for people the quality has diminished.
The current financial climate here isn’t great and certainly many household budgets are suffering, however this is a trend that has continued for over a decade or so at least. I found it hard to believe that people just didn’t cook anymore, REALLY? Whilst many ‘convenience’ options are available back home I still feel it is commonplace to do SOME home cooking. As I sat in my lounge-room I was in disbelief that the picture painted on the tele was in fact true ….until I arrived in Scotland that is.
Staying in a self-contained apartment this week I was looking forward to the opportunity to prepare some cheaper ‘home-cooked’ meals. We set off with a couple of family faves in mind and a shopping list in hand and into ‘Tesco Extra’ we went.
OH MY!!!! Consider this supermarket your large Coles or Woolworths doubled, throw in a department store and liquor shop for good measure and that’s what you get. As we strolled the aisles we saw much of the usual stuff from back home, perhaps not as wide a variety though. We hit the freezer section and sure enough there are some ‘ready prepared’ frozen meals again, much the same as home, surely this isn’t the sole diet of the UK? Stroll through the deli aisle …same. However, we rounded the corner and ‘this is new’. Not one, but two aisles were dedicated to ‘fresh’ ready-prepared meals. Take your pick. Anything from individual serves to family feasts. Vegetables all ready to go (at least they had some) and a varied assortment of dishes.
Tesco have their own line of meals which pretty much took up one entire aisle. Other named brands took up the other. I was amazed at what was available and the prices were very cheap. Keep in mind they work with specials, ‘coupons’ and other deals as well as online shopping and this is a heaven for the ‘culinarily challenged’.
We perused the area for a while and came across their international section. Shelves of oriental, Indian and Mexican fare all good to go. ‘Dinner for Two’ packs were amongst these containing many of the individual meals in a convenient carry box with a cheaper price tag. It didn’t take much for hubby to suggest ditching the ‘home-cooking’ option and just get a few packs. When you bought more than just one they were cheaper again. I didn’t need my arm twisted, the only hard part was deciding which ones to have. With a few nights ahead of us we loaded up the trolley with feasts of fine fare. Feel like a drink? Just head down to the liquor section and throw something in the trolley. As for the family-size Apple Strudel for only £1 ….did they REALLY think I would pass on that? Of course they didn’t. So off we went with our trolley full of ready-made meals for the week (plus a few things for sandwiches), well I am on holidays afterall!
If it weren’t for the fact I threw some extras in for the sake of additional research, I suspect our total at the register would have been the same, if not less, as if I had brought all the ingredients to make it myself. Consider the time-saving aspect and there’s a battle here almost won. Sure, we could consider the additives and general nutritive value but in the grand scheme of things, when your are running around after a few kids, have limited skills and a budget to watch it’s importance declines significantly. As one family depicted on the tele once mentioned, with ready-made meals she was able to have her ‘low fat’ dish, a simple pasta dish for the kids (with a fussy 8yo eater I understand that battle) and something spicy for the hubby. Everyone is happy and all they needed was for someone to throw them in the oven or microwave. Get on and get a few things done (laundry, cleaning, bathing kids …you know ‘the list’) and dinner takes care of itself. Makes sense to me.
‘Singles’ simply have to pop into a ‘Tesco Express’ or ‘Sainsbury’s’ convenience store on the way home and there, just inside the door is the ‘ready-made’ section full of a great variety of meals-for-one for only a few quid. We happened to be in one around 6pm as the commuters were passing through and it was rather popular.
So …what did we end up with? We skipped on the traditional Shepherd’s Pies or individual options and chose the boxed kits. Despite being ‘for 2’ I reckon if you got a couple you could easily cater a family of 5 and with the ability to pick up some additional serves it wouldn’t be hard to deal with a larger family. The kits averaged about £6 each, individual items or dished around £2-£3.
Tuesday’s dinner was ‘Indian’:
Chicken Tikka Masala
The second kit had the same but Chicken Jalfrezi instead of the Tikka.
There were staggered times for putting things in the oven, but with the timer set on my phone to go back in 10-15 minute for stage 2 & 3 all I had to do was pierce the lid, pop them in and walk away. Sit down, relax, get some work done ….anything but ‘cook’. After 25 minutes this is what we had waiting for us.
It tasted great. No, we weren’t searching for the chicken in our curry, the bahjis were just as good as ones I make myself, and well, I doubt I could actually make a half-decent naan (as easy as it is). If I was to have cooked this myself I would have been in the kitchen quite some time ….and had a LOT of dishes to clean. We threw a few plates and cutlery in the dishwasher when done and that was dinner, better than many meals I would ever have cooked on a Tuesday night.
Our other meals we have coming up are:
Thursday – Oriental Meal for Two Menu A:
Sweet and Sour Chicken
Chicken and Cashew Nuts
Egg Fried Rice
Vegetable Spring Rolls
We also picked up ‘Aromatic Duck & Pancakes’
..and for Friday
Spiced Tex Mex Meal for 2
Classic Chicken Fajitas with Roasted Sweet Peppers
Warming Chipotle Chilli Con Carne with Potato Wedges
Crispy Tortilla Chips and Salsa Dip
We also grabbed some ‘Spiced Chicken Enchiladas’ and ‘Southern Fried Chicken with Curly Fries’
Certainly with these options available to me, even as an experienced cook I would find it hard to justify the time and energy to make meals ‘from scratch’.
PS. Check out the birthday cake section ….this puts the “let’s stick an edible transfer and a plastic ornament on a cake and call it a birthday cake” section of my supermarket to shame – they were excellent!
BIRTHDAY CATERING MADE EASY