Carrot, Cumin & Kidney Bean Soup, 18p [VG/V/DF/GF]

If I recall correctly, this was the first recipe I ever posted on this blog, typed in my then freezing cold, uncarpeted flat that I was on the verge of being evicted from, cobbled together from the supermarket basics I could make work with the change I could find around the house, because my bank account was so deeply overdrawn with charges from bounced bills, change was all we had. The recent furore with the Conservatives where they upheld me as an example of ‘anyone can manage on £10 a week’ (which I excoriatingly refuted), has left me feeling bruised and emotionally broken. I wanted to write another recipe, but I felt sullied, trite, misappropriated, and used. So instead I am going to rewrite my recipes from 2012 – that many of you will not have seen buried beneath the beautiful new ones – and re-cost them to demonstrate the soar in prices in the Basics range over the last 6 years, and how it is always the poorest who shoulder the burden of economic inequality. People often deride me for costing my recipes at Sainsburys – but the method behind that particular madness is sound. When I was shit poor, Sainsburys was the only supermarket within walking distance to my house, so it was quite literally my only reliable option. I have continued to price my recipes on their Basics range for the last few years as a way of monitoring price rises, disappearing products, and changes in packaging sizes in a detailed and comprehensive manner. You can shop wherever you like – and I envy those of you with Aldi and Lidl and Asda in your vicinities – I just use the orange supermarket as my benchmark for price indexing, and the changes may shock you.

This is a protein and flavour packed soup for not very much money at all – and the ingredients also make the Carrot, Cumin & Kidney Bean Burger, and with a little chocolate and subbing in kidney beans, the Chocolate, Chilli & Black Bean Soup, too. And from there you can make the bean chilli, and you have 4 different meals from the same base ingredients to get you started.

Serves 4 

1 onion, 10p (90p/1.5kg, Sainsburys Basics. In 2012 this would have been 5p as part of a 1.25kg Basics stew pack, that was discontinued a few years ago. Price increase: 100%)

2 tablespoons oil or other fat, 3p (£3/3l, Sainsburys – as far as I recall this price has not risen, but it is from the mid-range, not the Basics)

1 heaped tablespoon ground cumin, 5p (80p/100g, Natco or KTC brand. Still the same price – ‘world foods’ goods barely change in price and these spices are an excellent staple, much cheaper than the supermarket own at £1 for 38g!)

300g carrots, tinned or fresh, 14p (45p/1kg, Sainsburys Basics) Again, in 2012 this would have been 10p as part of a Basics stew pack, that was discontinued a few years ago. Price increase: 40%) 

1 stock cube, dissolved in 500ml boiling water, 4p (35p/10 stock cubes. In 2012 this would have been 1p, as 10 Basics stock cubes were 10p. Price increase: 250%.)

1 x 400g tin of red kidney beans, 35p (These were 17p in 2012. Price increase: 106%)

2012 price: 41p. 2018 price: 71p. I note that the M&S £10 meal deal is still £10 and the Charlie Bighams macaroni cheese is still £7, so who, really, consumes the microwave meals in this country and who, really, pays for them?

Some food for thought, and now, some soup.

Peel and chop the onion and put into a medium-sized saucepan with the oil and cumin. 

Wash and chop the carrots and add to the pan.

Cook on a low heat for a few minutes until the onion is starting to soften. 

Pour the stock into the pan and bring to the boil. Turn down and simmer for 20 minutes or until the carrots are tender. 

Drain and rinse the kidney beans well, add to the pan and heat through. 

Tip everything into a blender and pulse til smooth, or if you don’t have a blender, it works perfectly well as a chunky broth too.

More to follow from this series. I hope that anyone who wrongly upholds me as a poster girl for cuts to welfare understands that my £10 a week in 2012 was starvation and subsistence, and with the sharp increase in the cost of food as demonstrated above, would only go half as far today.

  This blog is free to those who need it, and always will be, but it does of course incur costs to run and keep it running. If you use it and benefit, enjoy it, and would like to keep it going, please consider popping something in the tip jar, and thankyou.

Click here for ‘Cooking On a Bootstrap’

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  1. Thank you for highlighting the shocking price differences between “then” and “now”; I thought I was getting less for my money or having to spend more on staple essentials like veg but have not systematically noted things like this in the way you have. It’s still good & flavoursome soup 🙂

  2. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.
    Just received your lovely “Bootstrap” book in the post, a great early birthday present (albeit from me, to me!)

  3. Finally managed to put a tip in the jar. Love and strongly support you and all you do. And I had forgotten about this soup, going to make some tonite. Thanks, Jack!

  4. I’ve never made this soup, but the burgers are a real favourite, even in my house of confirmed carnivores. I had noticed the price rises or disappearance of the basics ranges in both the orange and blue supermarkets but to see the actual percentages is horrifying. Shame on them. Keep doing what you do so well, you make me laugh and keep me sane!!

  5. Jack, This is brilliant work, although I hate the fact you have to feel belittled and used to do it.

    Your question about the ready meals: It occurs to me it’s the farmers who are bearing the brunt of this, as the manufacturers don’t re-negotiate nearly often enough, and rarely fairly.

  6. I noticed today that a tub of vitalite margarine has gone up by 20p. It was £1 for a long time, but today at Tesco it is £1.20. I buy it because is a cheap vegan option, but maybe I ought to be looking again. I shop online and have noticed the week on week struggle to keep the shopping within budget. We are lucky in that my husband earns a good wage, but even that hasn’t increased for quite a few years now due to government freezing of salarys. We aren’t in poverty by a long chalk, but are noticing the rising prices.

  7. This is such important work you are doing and it’s wonderful that you are recosting the recipes. People with money to spare have no clue what it costs to be poor. I am privileged enough to not worry about the grocery total today but I certainly did when I had a small girl.

    I also work with those without permanent housing in my county and the situation is dire. Now here we have a proposal for “food boxes” instead of a monetary benefit. The benefit is not enough to feed someone anyway but how on earth would someone without an address, a kitchen, any storage keep a box of food to feed themselves? Insanity seems to be global.

  8. I am sorry to hear that you are feeling bruised and emotionally broken. The *&^%$# who make cuts don’t understand real life, up there in their ivory towers. Please take extra good care of yourself and be gentle with yourself. Take care. A lot of people CARE about you!

  9. Horrifying that prices have risen so much, even in the “basics” range. I’m sure it is a lot of work for you to re-cost everything in 2018 prices, but it does show that “the sharp increase in prices would only go HALF as far today.” I hope there is a special place in hell for members of Congress who cut programs for the disadvantaged…

  10. It’s a great post and they’re lovely recipes, but all your percentage increases are 100% too high. A price increase from 17p to 35p is a 106% increase, not 206%. Same for all of them: 10p is 200% of 5p, which represents a 100% increase.

  11. Sainsbury’s do still have a mixed casserole pack — I buy it regularly. It has swede, carrot, onion and parsnip, around 750g for a £1. How does that compare with the old price for a larger size?

  12. Anyone can manage on £10 a week = it might have been possible in 2012 not to starve and be malnourished on £10 a week if you are resourceful, frugal, have a home, with a hob that works and money to top up the electric meter so the fridge and said hob actually work……😞 Mainly thanks to you I haven’t skipped a meal in months to make sure my children are fed. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that. Thank you x

  13. Money halves in value every 14 years or so dependent on the rate of inflation. That’s why my 3d pocket money bought loads of sweets in the mid 1960s and wouldn’t buy me one now, even if translated into decimals. So actually Jack’s 100% rise in prices is what i would expect over 15 years.

    The real problem is income because every time we get a pay rise (if any) that’s less than inflation, we’re actually getting a pay cut.

  14. Love your commitment to, as you say, a project you began years ago in the depths of those…people fucking it up.
    follow you avidly even though we’re in New Zealand (!?) wre’re listening, and reading avidly. you taught me to cook

  15. Jack, i would like to add my appreciation for the great work that you do.
    And also say that i really like this idea of catching up on the costings for old recipes. I have suspected for a while that the major part of food inflation is happening at the lower price of the food market, and this certainly seems to confirm it.

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