Do you feel the pinch? You can still enjoy chic food with the savvy exchanges of our expert
With the price of a weekly store ever-increasing, even food snobs have to tighten their belts. But there are certain standards that every middle-class host must meet. So if you can’t afford that splash of Fever-Tree tonic in your guests’ G&T or Torres truffle crisps to munch on while supper cooks, what’s the alternative?
Sudi Pigott, an avowed lover of “Prada for the pantry,” turns into a foodie sleuth to find cheaper versions of the staples we love. These shrewd exchanges will save your middle-class pennies and blushes.
SWAP: Daylesford Smoked Salmon (£8.99, 100g, daylesford.com) FOR: Goldstein Smoked Salmon (£3.70, 100g, goldsteinsalmon.com)
TO EXCHANGE: Daylesford smoked salmon (£8.99, 100g, daylesford.com)
FOR: Goldstein Smoked Salmon (£3.70, 100g, goldsteinsalmon.com)
The simple name of Daylesford delights gourmets. And this organic salmon from the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland, with its delicate streak of smoke and elegant pale color, is a subtle treat.
But try Goldsteins, one of the oldest salmon smokers in the world, and you won’t be disappointed. The firm offers a gentle London cure. yet the smoke is a bit more distinctive and the texture is creamy, if a bit greasy.
TO EXCHANGE: Deliciously Ella Muesli with apricots and almonds (£4.15, 500g, ocado.com)
FOR: Mornflake Classic Fruit and Nut Muesli (£2, 750g, ocado.com)
The Deliciously Ella range with vibrant packaging exudes wholesome appeal, as does its eponymous founder and wellness influencer, Ella Woodward, a granddaughter of Lord Sainsbury’s.
But at half price, Mornflake is a gem. This family brand has been making British oats for 15 generations. Unusually, the recipe includes a relatively high ratio of dates which lends a rich, melting note alongside raisins, sultanas, dried apricots, dried coconut as well as wholesome seeds, hazelnuts and almonds. A superbly balanced blend.
TO EXCHANGE: Belazu Rose Harissa Spiced Nuts (£3.85, 135g, Amazon)
FOR: Cashew Marmite (£1.50, 90g, waitrose.com)
Are salted peanuts just too downgraded to stare at with a pencil sharpener before dinner? Instead, try a bowl of nuts with striking aromas. A relatively new addition to Belazu’s tantalizing repertoire, these Rose Harissa Nuts (there’s also a truffle and pecorino version) are unapologetically ambitious. But I’m the cheap date here and have long had a thing for marmite and cashews. Together, they are deliciously tasty and more indulgent.
TO EXCHANGE: Pact Coffee (£9.95 for 250g, or £6.95 to £7.95 with a subscription plan, pactcoffee.com)
FOR: Lavazza Qualita Rossa (£3.75, 250g, tesco.com)
As a coffee enthusiast, I confess that I spend too much money on coffee beans. Pact’s subscription model makes quality more accessible, of course, and I like that, for total appeal, they sometimes have special, ultra-rare coffee to buy in single bag form.
But if compression is on, you can still swap your monovarietal mix. Lavazza’s Qualita Rossa (a blend of Brazilian Arabica and Robusta beans from Africa and Southeast Asia) has an appealing aroma and is mellow and creamy, with medium intensity and hints of chocolate and a hint of hazelnut.
Far superior to many coffees I’ve been served in places that should know better!
SWAP: Torres Truffle Chips (£4.25, 125g, ocado.com) FOR: M&S Truffle Chips (£1.85, 150g, ocado.com)
TO EXCHANGE: Torres Truffle Chips (£4.25, 125g, ocado.com)
FOR: M&S Truffle Chips (£1.85, 150g, ocado.com)
What better indicator of extravagant gourmet aspirations than serving truffle crisps when guests arrive for dinner?
But a 125g packet of Barcelona’s favorite Torres crisps can cost upwards of £4.
Thank goodness the M&S ones are far superior. They have a very more intense truffle taste and an intense umami taste. Taking a closer look at the ingredients, the flavor of the black summer truffle is augmented with mushroom powder, which only enhances the savory flavor, and the crisps are fried in proper olive oil. A certain victory.
SWAP: Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic Light (£3.80, 8x150ml, saitsburys.co.uk) FOR: Ridge Valley Indian Tonic (£1.99, 8x150ml, aldi.com)
TO EXCHANGE: Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic Light (£3.80, 8 x 150ml,saintsburys.co.uk)
FOR: Ridge Valley Indian Tonic (£1.99, 8 x 150ml, aldi.com)
Fever-Tree first rocked the market in 2005 and is a beautifully balanced, aromatic tonic with mild citric content and a natural taste and is not overly fizzy.
But Aldi’s own-brand tonic is a winner at a fraction of the cost, while having nearly identical packaging.
Significantly, it’s also effervescent, not overly fizzy, just a slight sparkle. The balance isn’t quite perfect, there’s a bit of bitterness with the quinine, but it’s undeniably refreshing.
TO EXCHANGE: Gail’s Seeded Crackers (£3.90, 154g, gailsbread.co.uk)
FOR: Peter’s Yard Seed Sourdough Flatbreads (£1.90, 135g,saintsburys.co.uk)
Of course, you can’t treat your guests to artisanal hazelnut cheddar without some high-end biscuits to go with it. And these buttermilk and seeded flatbreads (delicious fennel, poppy seed and caraway to name just three) from Gail’s taste are utterly irresistible with unusual spice undertones. However, slow-fermented, small-batch sourdough flatbreads from Edinburgh-based Peter’s Yard are fast becoming cheese course staples – and much more affordable. I love their crisp, crunchy finish.
SWAP: Brindisa North & South Extra Virgin Olive Oil (£9.95, 1 litre, ocado.com) FOR: Filippo Berio Special Selection Extra Virgin Olive Oil (£5.50, 1 litre, morrisons.com)
TO EXCHANGE: Brindisa North & South extra virgin olive oil (£9.95, 1 litre, ocado.com)
FOR: Filippo Berio Special Selection extra virgin olive oil (£5.50, 1 litre, morrisons.com)
I save a special extra virgin olive twist for cheffy final flourishes on roast fish or homemade hummus and love the deep grassy vibrancy of northern and southern Brindisa, which is a blend of chewy Arbequina and punchier Picual olives.
Still, Filippo Berio packs a sweet, fruity flavor and a definite punch for less than half the price. It’s good in a simple vinaigrette and cooked with shallots and tomato sauce, it’s really quite hard to tell the difference. Both are balanced, harmonious and versatile.
TO EXCHANGE: Grom Vanilla Gelato Ice Cream (£6.99, 460ml, waitrose.com)
FOR: Mackie’s vanilla ice cream (£2.25, 1 litre, waitrose.com)
We all intend to use that ice cream maker we bought with the best of intentions years ago, but a tub of good ice cream in the freezer is a great alternative. And Grom, with its svelte wrapper and boasts of a real Italian gelato recipe, is touted as a special treat. However, when tasting from a pot, the flavor is not ambrosial and its texture is velvety, but not exceptionally. Four scoops and I’m halfway there too!
More shockingly, Grom is now owned and manufactured by Unilever, while Mackie’s remains a traditional family business using milk from its own herds in Aberdeenshire. A fresh and creamy hit with an aroma of vanilla and a balanced flavor.
Its price is also outdated.