Wagon Wheels used to be huge. That’s why they were called Wagon Wheels, because they were almost the size of a wagon wheel. Everyone who sees a modern one will tell you that they’ve shrunk, though Burton’s, the company who make them, deny it and say it’s just that you were smaller as a child. I disagree… They were definitely bigger and everyone knows it. I don’t think it’s my imagination but it looks like they aren’t the only thing that is smaller. Not since I was a child either but in the last few years.
Wagon Wheels are the obvious example. That’s the one everyone knows about because they used to be so freaking big. Now you hardly even get three mouthfuls out of them. You hardly get three mouthfuls out of anything. I had a packet of digestive biscuits this week, opened them up, and they were tiny. There was hardly anything on them. They weren’t supposed to be mini ones either, they were regular sized ones. There wasn’t even two bites on them. It was the same with a creamy meringue thing I bought a few weeks ago… It was so tiny and hardly even worth eating. It didn’t fill me up at all. I’ve noticed this phenomena going on with Jam- You used to get loads of jam in a jar, now you barely get three or four spoonfuls. yogurt is the same. No more than two portions per pot. I’m only one person but imagine if I was a family of four and we each wanted yogurt for breakfast. Just for one day we’d need two pots, minimum. For a week, fourteen. That is, I am sure you will agree, absurd. multipack pots barely have a mouthful in them.
Everything now comes in packs of five as well. They used to be a good wholesome six. Cadbury’s Mini Rolls, for example, used to be in packs of six. Now they’re in packs of five, like almost every other biscuit multipack out there, for the same price. Why? Well the food industry will probably tell you that five fits better into the working week. You can have one in your lunchbox every day and not have any left over. What if I want one Saturday though? They don’t think about that. And with six you get your money’s worth, five and it feels like I’m being short changed. With the smaller sizes it feels like daylight robbery.
Meanwhile healthy food is both ridiculously expensive and either suffers the same problem (fruits especially) or goes to the other extreme and has so much in there that it either goes bad before you can eat it all or you have to spend a week eating nothing but sweetcorn. Don’t get me wrong, I like sweetcorn, but I don’t want to spend a week eating it.
The problem here is that I feel like quantities are being dictated to us by the supermarket and the food industry. For a start not everybody is going to want the same amount of something. Take the yogurt, my two portions could be someone else’s one or four. Why, if I go out and buy some yoghurt, can I not have it in the portion I want? Why can’t I say ‘I want this much’ and have it dispensed into an adequate sized jar? That wouldn’t be practical for biscuits but for fruits, vegetables, jams etc. it would be perfect. Heck, that’s the way it used to be back in the days of the friendly old high street grocer, before supermarkets drove them all out of business.
It’s been a long held belief of mine that the food industry is rotten. It is a mess driven by pirates seeking to make as much money as possible out of one of the most basic needs in the natural world, food. They have western civilisation by the balls. This is just one example out of many that also include extortionate pricing, lies, unnecessary additives, excessive waste and trying to pretend that it’s more convenient to buy foods packaged that are actually really simple to make. With this example, by not selling enough of something they’re pushing people to buy more, thus more money in their pockets. Where they sell too much for one person to reasonably eat it’s a similar sort of thing. You’re giving them more money for more than what you want or need. So what is to be done?
There is only one thing that can be done. They have to be cut down, avoided wherever possible. This is something I’ve been trying for the last few years, ever since I noticed all the ridiculous amount of sugars on the ingredients list of a pizza packet. I ditched ready meals for a start and started making things like pizza for myself, from scratch wherever possible. I made a lovely tomato soup yesterday, for instance. All from scratch! Processed meat went down the tube (apart from the occasional savaloy or black pudding) and so too have pre-prepared drinks. No more Lipton’s Iced Tea for me. If I want something like that I do it myself, from a fruit tea bag. I grow what food I can grow and have room to grow and whatever else I need I try and buy loose where I can, though this is being made harder by the supermarkets who keep dropping the loose vegetables in favour of the packaged stuff. I try not to waste anything. I eat almost everything I buy, even if that means a week of sweetcorn every once in a blue moon. I’ve even started making my own yogurt and I get a lot more out of it than I would ever get in a commercially available pot. One pint of milk makes enough yogurt to last me a week, and the milk is cheaper than the pots so I am also better off.
The other thing I’ve been trying is eating seasonally, which is more difficult than it should be. Fruits are especially hard to eat on a seasonal basis thanks to a dearth of varieties in certain supermarkets. I have to make some exceptions like with berries for example. Mostly though, with a bit of creativity and allowing myself some leeway here and there, I’ve gotten away with it. I haven’t had any mushrooms since February for example but with autumn just a few weeks away they’ll be back soon enough. There are some tomatoes coming through on the vines in the garden at the moment but once they’re gone that’s it till next year. I’ve found that by doing this I appreciate my food a lot more. I’m looking forwards to mushrooms again and potatoes, which before I was eating a few times a week, are more desirous than they were. I really don’t want the tomato season to end either. I’m forced to be more creative with my diet, forced to be more inventive, and that is an exceptionally good thing you should know.
What about those biscuits though? What about sweet treats and cakes? I bake every once in a while but I’m still reliant on the food industry in that regards. That has to change and that is the next step I need to take. I need to start routinely making my own biscuits and meringues (I’ve never made a meringue in my life) and things like that. I’ll get the size I want from them and there’ll be far more than five of them or two mouthfuls per biscuit. Eventually I’ll be able to ditch the store bought varieties entirely and though it will take up a bit more time, it will be worth it.
It means I’m going to need to learn how to bake, like properly bake. I’m going to need to go from somehow managing to turn chocolate chip cookies into scones into master baker. Now everybody goes on about this Great British Bake Off thing so maybe that’s where I should start… Maybe I’ll get some inspiration. Or it might just reinforce how terrible my baking skills really are. I’ll be documenting the process so keep your eyes peeled.