A bit of home-made philosophy?
Preparing the sausage swirls for my last recipe post, I wondered if it was any cheaper to make your own and freeze them in bulk, since this is not a particularly expensive meal and it is very easy. So, below is the calculation for that recipe. Short answer: it isn’t cheaper, it could be more than double the price if using pre-bought pastry. I have not dared to look at what the costs would be to do this with organic ingredients.
It makes me wonder what life are we are collectively living. The costs of the processed item–paying someone else’s wages, the packaging costs, transport and all the other overheads, the potential waste of food unsold past its best-buy date and environmental costs, plus the costs of taking up shelf space in a shop with all of its staff and overheads and yet, and yet, the costs of the processed food product is still cheaper than making your own. I have taught some economics classes and lots of business courses at university level, so I do understand economies of scale and supply chain efficiencies, yet this sort of madness still throws me. It means that my own handwork and effort in my own home are worth no financial gain to me. Of course, the ingredients for making at home all have their own supply chain costs built-in, but even still.
- Purchasing 8 x Large Sausage Rolls, Waitrose Essentials Label = £2.40
- Purchasing ingredients for 8 x Large Sausage Rolls, (making pastry) = £ 3.60
- Purchasing ingredients for 8 x Large Sausage Rolls (buying pastry) = £5.10
So, does society now celebrate this form of thrift, the housewife/husband who shops around for the cheapest processed foods to serve their family? Far from it, we laugh at chavs that eat chips and Macs and turkey twizzlers and ask questions about it in our media and our parliaments. Economists, however, would tell you that buying cheap, cheaper, cheapest is the rational, economic utility maximising response, i.e. it is the most sensible behaviour to display in this world we have created. It follows it is everyone else not utility maximising who can be said to be behaving weirdly, but that can’t be right either, can it?
Home-cooking, if it demonstrably cannot provide any cost benefits, becomes then about taste and flavour, control over the type and quality of the ingredients, possibly with some environmental advantages too in reducing packaging going into landfill, but really, it comes down to whether you enjoy the experience and have the time to indulge your enjoyment. It becomes, therefore, about luxury. Generations of my family have cooked at home for reasons of thrift, but in less than half of my own lifetime a complete and seemingly irreversible volte face has taken place. As the ancient Chinese curse invokes, we most certainly do live in interesting times.