The depth of knowledge here is just astonishing

The problem isn’t them. High-quality ingredients are expensive and time-consuming to prepare when they’re available at all, and people with low wages and long hours—the people most likely to have suffered catastrophic effects of the pandemic, no matter their weight—do not have much time or money to spare.

This is simply insane. I’ll use UK figures just because I know them off the top of my head but the US is similar if not actually better.

The average household food bill is £60 a week (the average weekly grocery bill in the US is $90 a week, average wage is around $25 an hour, maybe $28). The average hourly wage is £14. Four and a half hours work by one averagely paid individual feeds a household for a week.

That’s not expensive food. That’s the cheapest food has been in the history of our entire species.

People talking about expensive food are quite literally insane.

36 thoughts on “The depth of knowledge here is just astonishing”

  1. I don’t understand what they mean by ‘high quality ingredients’ in this context.

    In any case, a proper salad – one that contains meat and cheese – isn’t any harder to prepare (high or low quality ingredients) than microwaving a tv dinner.

  2. “High quality” in this context means organic, artisan or otherwise artificially expensive; it bears no relation to the nutritional value, but a very close one to price.

  3. Salads, hmmm?…….
    Isn’t that the stuff you ignore on your plate if you have to have Green Stuff on it, or else mum/mum-in-law/missus/pretentious cvnt throws a tiff?

  4. But, my dear, have you actually seen the price of organic quinoa in Waitrose?

    Tonight, out main course will be lamb’s liver – £1 from M&S (so I’m sure you can get it for half that) is ample for two hungry adults. The veg will probably cost (slightly) more.

  5. Is this a reference to the meal services that deliver the pre-portioned/prepared ingredients you then cook yourself? Certainly an expensive way to avoid going shopping or thinking about what to eat, but then for some people worth it in terms of the convenience.

  6. Dennis, Bullshit Detector

    The elephant in the room is what Amanda implies but doesn’t say out loud: In her world minorities can’t cook for themselves, can’t make appropriate food choices, etc.

    She pulls out all the old tropes: Nutritious food is too expensive, food deserts mean the poor can’t get to grocery stores, and on and on and on…

    What she doesn’t offer is an proof that “the poor” can’t afford nutritious foods rather than frozen dinners and McDonald’s. She also doesn’t offer any proof that “the poor” are eating frozen dinners and McDonald’s rather than salads, veggies and fruits. It’s just assumed. After all, they’re poor. It stands to reason they’re stupid as well, right?

    So what we have here is a white woman – and one that hasn’t skipped a meal ever, by the looks of her – telling us that “the poor” make bad decisions about food because they’re “the poor” and can’t afford to do anything else. In her world “the poor” don’t have the brains, desire or resourcefulness to do anyone other than be victims. In other words, they’re waiting around for some heavyset white woman to save them…

    That’s as racist as it gets.

  7. *You* try feeding a family from Stroud’s admittedly and justifiably famous farmers’ market, Tim. The organic pain rustique, artisanal cave-aged cheddar and hedge-foraged pickle for a mere sandwich would set you back £15. You can probably double that for those forced to shop at Borough Market, or Fortnum’s. You simply have no idea how expensive it is in the UK nowadays.

  8. ” justifiably(?) famous farmers’ market”
    Gave up on that myth when I saw the empty wholesalers’ tomato boxes behind the stalls.

  9. It must have been more than twenty years ago that a group pf young medics wrote a paper for the BMJ exploding the myth of “food deserts”. Their methodology consisted of walking about and looking.

  10. If any of the middle class twats who write this stuff actually went to the poorer parts of town, especially where the immigrants live they’d find that there are plenty of cheap fresh ingredients available in those areas, because immigrants are used to cooking from scratch, and can’t afford expensive food either. A friend of mine is a chef, he always bought all his herbs and spices from a little shop in the part of town where a white face stands out, it was far cheaper than his official catering suppliers and better quality as well. He used to spend so much there the shop keeper treated him like royalty, when he walked in any existing customers were hurriedly pushed to one side and told to wait while he served my friend.

    So the reason there are no fruit and veg shops in white working classes areas is not because of poverty, they have more money than the immigrants, its that no businessman in his right mind would open up such a shop in such an area, he’d be bust inside months. Any fast food outlet would be a gold mine however, so thats what they get, because thats what they want…..

  11. £14 per hour is pre tax whereas the £60 shopping bill comes straight out of the sky rocket, so more like 6 hours labour.

    That said we are seeing something of a Walmart effect here in the UK, with Tesco now shouting about their Aldi price match on loads of products. We are now in the happy place where the mere existence of Aldi has lowered prices at all supermarkets so I can shop wherever is convenient without getting ripped off (still prefer Aldi though!).

  12. Theodore Dalrymple had this to say nearly twenty years ago, further confirming Jim’s point:-

    Recently, at a lunch I attended, given by a left-wing magazine to which I sometimes contribute, the matter of food poverty and food deserts came up, and it was with some pride that I heard an area, not more than a mile from where I live, described as the very worst of these deserts, positively the Atacama of food.

    As the only person present with personal knowledge—what Bertrand Russell used to call “knowledge by acquaintance”—of the area in question, I felt constrained to point out that I frequently shopped there, at a small Indian store in which one could buy, for example, 22-pound sacks of onions for about $3.40, and in which a huge variety of extremely fresh vegetables could be bought at prices less than half of those in the supermarket chains. Yet the only poor people who shopped there were Indian immigrants or their descendants—housewives who sifted through the produce looking carefully for the best. Practically no poor whites (or blacks) ever went there, though plenty of both live in the area. Only a few members of the white middle class from outside the area took advantage of the wide range and exceptionally low prices.

  13. Jim

    Spot on – I lived in the vicinity of the Wembley High Road 15 years ago (Alperton) and there were At least 4 places on the Ealing Road which were open 24 hours a day
    With a massive array of fruit and veg at reasonable prices – this woman hasn’t got the faintest idea about anything and would have been condemning the people she is profiling as racists in any other context.

  14. Utterly bonkers article. Lidl and Aldi do extremely cheap vegetables and salads, plus as others have pointed out Asian owned shops proliferate in inner cities.

    Salads and stir fries require minimal time and effort to prepare.

    Perhaps it’s time to replace child benefit/tax credits/universal credit with smartcards/vouchers which can only be spent on real food not alcohol/cigarettes/drugs/takeaways/etc.

  15. @ BiW
    It takes time to peel carrots, shell peas or broad beans, top-and-tail radishes or green beans, wash lettuce, let alone cook food properly.
    You may be unable to understand that the authoress expects high quality food to make itself available to herself at a snap of her fingers.

  16. Jim,

    “Any fast food outlet would be a gold mine however, so thats what they get, because thats what they want…..”

    It’s also the case that fast food places are flexible about location. McDonald’s is serving people who turn up in cars. It makes sense to put them in cheap parts of town.

  17. You have give her some credit for calling out governmental interference to ‘fix’ this as bad. Her reasoning is pretty dodgy, yes, but I’ll take it.

    I’d be more worried that if governments were doing widespread bans/taxing of certain foods, who is making the call? How long before potatoes go on the sin list, for instance? Cheap, great for padding out casseroles when the meat budget is short, and nutritionally pretty good – but you can make chips out of them…

  18. It takes time to peel carrots, shell peas or broad beans, top-and-tail radishes or green beans, wash lettuce, let alone cook food properly.

    But it takes just as long, maybe even longer (cutting out bad bits etc), to prepare low quality items from that list than it does to prepare high quality ones.

  19. Never bothered to work out what my food budget is, but I usually buy trays of meat, packets of frozen vegs, breakfast cereal etc

    The food seems perfectly affordable to me, and easy to prepare. No doubt if I was to do more bargain hunting and more work at home I could find something cheaper. But the saving in time and effort is worth more to me than any hypothetical savings.

    There’s certainly no shortage of suppliers of the stuff in my neighbourhood.

  20. Two things I have mentioned before:

    1. In 1976 a cucumber was 20p, which, allowing for inflation = £1.47 today.
    In Tesco now, a whole cucumber costs 45p (or you could go organic which’ll cost you 90p).

    2. Magnus Pyke said “There is no such thing as bad food, only bad diet”.

    Also, I saw a report on how despite the pandemic and subsequent drop in food bought from Mc D’s, Greggs, Ma Kellys greasy spoon etc., average calorie consumption had gone up.

  21. Food deserts. After years in London & bountiful supplies of everything, France which is a shopper’s delight & Spain, I did find myself briefly residing in one. Haywards Heath, heart of the stockbroker belt. Basically, it’s shop at Sainsburys or don’t eat. The prices in the butcher were outrageous & the veg shop ill supplied & pricey. Oh & it did have a sort of “farmer’s market” row of stalls attached to the shopping precinct where the prices had to be a joke

  22. Tangentially, during my forced exile some French friends came over to visit & I took them to lunch at what was supposed to be be a “rated” pub. The entire event was an embarrassment. The service was abysmal, the food ghastly & the bill exorbitant. You could have walked into almost any French restaurant, brasserie, estaminet or cafe & done better

  23. One of the joys i’ve found is gogglebox. No doubt its still a highly curated section of the viewing public we’re shown but its realer than anything else on TV. The way they all ripped into Jamie Oliver declaring ” The British still have a way to go” and suggesting lentils instead of roast spuds for Sunday lunch, warmed my heart cockles.

  24. Dunno. Gogglebox used to feature a bloke I went to school with. Why repeat that, I’ve already had years of his opinions?

    (Dom whateveritwas for those who want to know).

  25. BiS – Haywards Heath has always been a bit odd. Commuter town from the off – the only reason it’s there is because of the railway bisecting the two coaching routes. Not a lot of actual stockbrokers though.

    As you’d expect, way back there were yer actual butchers and grocers and bakers and whatnot, and two (for the time) decently sized supermarkets, Tesco and Sainsburys in the high street, plus a Co-Op a bit further south.

    And then the cattle market site became available in the late eighties or early nineties. They (or someone) could have stuck one up in that precinct, which was built about 1984 or something, but the preference was for lots of small units there, with a smaller supermarket up top (can’t remember what it was, it’s an M&S now). So Sainsbury’s ended up with a first mover advantage, as all the other potential sites were already offices.

    I think there’s also a Waitrose there now, and a fair number of Local, Express type stores dotted about.

  26. @Agammamon – ” a proper salad – one that contains meat and cheese – isn’t any harder to prepare (high or low quality ingredients) than microwaving a tv dinner”.

    I have to disagree, microwaving a tv dinner is easiest.

  27. @Dennis, Bullshit Detector – “can’t afford nutritious foods rather than frozen dinners and McDonalds”.
    McDonalds is nutritious. Indeed, one of the great contributions to the world from the USA.

    Blessed be Ray Kroc.

  28. ” justifiably(?) famous farmers’ market”
    Gave up on that myth when I saw the empty wholesalers’ tomato boxes behind the stalls.’

    Not at Stroud you didn’t. They’re absolute wankers – nothing like that remotely allowed, anyone trying it would be chucked out by their fellow stallholders, never mind the organisers, never mind the council.

  29. I don’t know why people complain so much – a Big Mac is such a well-balanced meal you can eat it with one hand.

  30. @jonny
    The reason I’m sceptical of farmers markets is asking a few questions. Like if the market’s Tuesday & Thursday, what happens to the fruit & veg that’s at its prime the other days of the week?
    There’s two answers. One the produce is diverted from the normal commercial production stream. So what you’re buying is the same as you’d buy anywhere else but at “farmers market” prices. Or two, the stall-holder does other farmers markets on the other days. And then you get what we have where I live. Where the stalls are genuine farmers’ produce. What isn’t sold at one market is boxed up & sold at the next one. Half the stuff you buy is rotten couple days after you’ve bought it.
    What I can’t see is how the economics of what they’re supposed to be doing makes any sense apart from bilking the public.
    The whole rational of open markets went when the supermarket logistic chain can get food from the field to the plate in under 24 hours. Non-supermarket shops really only work in high density population areas when there’s a high turnover of stock. The wholesale market adds more time to the chain.
    Hence I wouldn’t touch open market or small shop fruit & veg with a bargepole. I like something edible

  31. @bis

    I don’t think the vast majority of people have even the slightest appreciation of how extraordinary modern supermarket logistics are. Asked to make a list of the improvements that have done most to enhance modern life, most people plump for techy stuff, gadgets and gizmos, perhaps medical advances too. A lot of people – men especially – will underestimate the importance of home appliances. But “Supply chain management systems” would be the most boring answer imaginable, despite surely belonging well up in the top ten. Put it this way, if North Korean hackers managed to do a serious take-down of a relatively small number (under 20?) of companies’ systems, we’d notice the effects pretty sharpish.

    And no, can’t fathom the farmers markets either, at least from a customer point of view. Can’t be “selling direct cuts out the middle-man” because they’re not price-competitive, and besides, supermarkets have wafer-thin margins, compensated for by mindboggling volumes. Flip side, from a farmers’ point of view, is farmers markets don’t offer much opportunity to scale up, so if they’re really serious businesswise – rather than “lifestyle” farmers or overgrown hobbyists – what’s in it for them? Handy to access a reasonable number of customers willing to pay over the odds, but there’s only so much you can flog to them. (Some exceptions I can understand, like an entrepreneurial type trying to develop a new product line and get solid customer feedback before pitching to retailers, but that kind of niche doesn’t account for most sellers.)

  32. Bloke in North Dorset

    Farmers’ markets started when supermarkets decided that customers only wanted perfect goods, probably as a result of what got left on the shelf. They in turn demanded only perfect goods from their suppliers who found themselves left with a quantity of goods that were acceptable but just misshapen or whatever imperfection caused them to be rejected.

    These would normally have made their way to the normal markets we see in most towns but clever PR decided that setting up new farmers’ markets would allow higher margins.

    Since then we’ve seen the arrival of discounters like Lidl and Aldi show that there’s a large customer base that is quite happy with less than perfect, as long as its cheap.

    Discounters and farmers’ markets are also happy to take goods that haven’t got as much shelf life left in them for whatever reason, hence they often start to rot quicker than those from the main chains. I found this to be the case for small oranges that I like for lunch, they were only lasting a few days whereas the same ones I now buy from Tesco/Sainsbury last well over a week. Mostly we find our Lidl shop lasts us long enough until the next shop is made.

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