I have never been a big fan of food and cooking, but on becoming a mother I realised that a diet of 3 minute noodles and Pinot Grigio just wasn’t going to cut it anymore. I duly bought the Annabel Karmel books, weaned the children with a huge variety of fruit, veg and everything in between and have been rewarded with two kids who will, generally, eat anything.
Now comes the responsibility of developing their palates and ensuring that they have a healthy, balanced diet. So, with the help of Jamie Oliver, The River Cottage and the wonderful Nigel Slater, I have discovered, if not a love of cooking, certainly an interest in it. The one thing I have only recently got to grips with, and the point of, has been meal planning. My good friend Ness (of Bangers and Mash blog fame) introduced me to the concept as a way of saving the pennies as well as organising the week ahead. Eventually when I realised how expensive the weekly food shop was becoming I duly started to give it a go. The food bill went down and the weekly cooking became a lot less arduous with a lot less waste too. There seemed to be no reason why this method of working wouldn’t work here in Switzerland, so I duly planned the week and set off, list in hand to our local supermarket round the corner in Zugerland.
Traumatic is the only word to describe the experience. It was the most terrifying experience of my life. Heart surgery, giving birth, getting married, leaving home, all nothing compared to going round Migros on that Tuesday afternoon in August. My meals weren’t extreme, no obscure ingredients but every item I struggled with. Either I couldn’t work out what was in the pack thanks to my limited German, was that butter with or without salt? Why were the eggs all white or red and no brown ones. Were there really no fresh green beans or broccoli? As for the fish, I wanted a smoked haddock type fish to make fish cakes. No chance. I ended up, after a humiliating ‘discussion’ with the fish counter man,coming away with what I think was plain river cobbler – the fish cakes were so bland I might just as well have left the fish out. Crisps – all sharing bags, no individual packs for lunch boxes. Cereal, so expensive I refused to buy it. Beef mince in bags no larger than 300g and costing about £7 each (yes, I knew it was beef mince because there was a very helpful picture of a cow on the pack). I bought 350g of cheese (normal cheddar type cheese) that cost me about £9.
Then there was the cost! I was expecting everything to be roughly a third more expensive. It turned out at least double and I hadn’t even managed to get everything on the list. There were no BOGOFs, no 2 for the price of x, no meal deals.
Half way round the store, with a half empty trolley and after about an hour and a half; Tilly looked at me and simply said
Don’t cry Mummy. It’s ok.
But of course it wasn’t ok. Any confidence I had had to begin with was gone. The children were bored to tears and I had next to nothing with which I could create a nutritious, tasty meal, let alone a whole 7 days worth of meals. I wanted to cry and wail. I wanted my mummy!
Finally, after 2 hours we got to the checkout. The perfectly lovely (I imagine) checkout lady turned into a monstrous ogre. There was no gentle pacing of the scanning of my trolley contents. Everything was hurled through, piling up and leaving me wanting to run screaming back to the car with nothing. Eventually I caught up, the ogre tutting and sighing all the time, and then came the last hurdle. The advent of loyalty cards meant that the ogre spoke to me. I have absolutely on idea what she said, I hung my head and muttered,
Sorry, I’m English. We’ve only just arrived.
Whilst I peered round her to work out how many notes I needed to hand over.
I think it’s not an exaggeration to say that, that afternoon, I went into shock. I don’t remember getting home or unpacking the few bits I had bought. I just remember sitting for 2 hours on the balcony staring out at the view (because that’s what makes it all worth while isn’t it?) with a cup of tea in hand thinking about Sainsburys. I miss you Mr Sainsbury.