Once a week almost half of Brits get that irresistible urge to down tools pull out a takeaway menu and put their feet up.
An average of one hour is spent by growling belly induced fiends on the ritual, from deciding what to order to washing the dishes – something that leaves pockets approximately £1,040 lighter a year.
New figures released this week following a national survey revealed the staggering cost of Britain’s reliance on the ‘easy option’ and left TV chef James Martin with no doubt in his mind: It’s time for a change.
“I was surprised with the results,” James told MM.
“Time is precious and people are busy, but it was a surprise for me how much people spend on a takeaway.”
As UK food ambassador for Canned Food UK for seven years, James certainly knows what he is talking about.
Around 45% of people living in the North West consume a takeaway a week.
The number of people ordering too much food reaches 29%, while 8% spend up to £30 on this weekly treat, and more than one in five are irritated while waiting for their meal to be delivered.
The truly unexpected part of this pervasive reliance on so-called ‘fast food’ is the number of people exasperated by at least one aspect of the process.
Over a third of those living in the North West say that getting food you didn’t order was top of the bugbear list, while 34% said the same meal being cooked different at different places made a close second; and with 19% of people waiting more than half an hour for their evening meal to be delivered, 8% are falling asleep.
What lies behind such widespread dependence in spite of the clear draw-backs of takeaway food?
The survey crucially revealed that recipes are a faraway second to the menu for the nearest Indian restaurant for almost a quarter of people who say they lack inspiration for home cooking.
“As a nation we are interested in food, but we are lagging behind countries like France and Spain when it comes to home cooking,” James Martin told MM.
“I don’t think many people in Britain realise how good the food is on our doorstep, and it’s only now that we have got interested in it.
“Even just a roast chicken – there is nothing better. Practically all you have to do is put it in the oven and you have just cooked something that tastes far better than the stuff out of a tinfoil box, and you haven’t really done anything.”
Still, takeaways are a treat for many people and, in moderation they might not appear too bad. There are, however, hidden costs to takeaway meals that many people may not realise.
“If you make a meal yourself you know exactly what’s in your food, and some takeaways are using secondary cuts of meat and things like MSG to make food taste more interesting,” he said.
“This is something people just don’t know about.
“There are some amazing curry houses up and down the country, but if you can make something convenient and easy for people to cook they might cook more of their own food.”
And, as for the £20 a week that didn’t seem too bad, taking personal circumstances into account can considerably alter the perspective.
James, who opened his new restaurant James Martin Manchester last month at Manchester235, said: “I have learnt a lot this year. I was sent by the BBC to live with a pensioner who takes home £10.50 a week for food. That is real life. Can you imagine living on that?
“As things get more expensive, his pension isn’t going to go up; this is a guy who looks forward to having tinned spaghetti on toast once a month as a treat.
“We take things like that for granted and as a chef I would like to make things a little bit easier.”
With the launch of Canned Food UK’s Youtube Cooking Channel people struggling with inspiring recipes, healthy alternatives, or a disposable income willing to stretch to takeaway prices can look forward to just that.
“People haven’t got the time to spend hours cooking, but the great thing about doing something like Canned Food UK is that you have got something almost instant,” James told MM.
“A lot of people are put off by cooking because it was a complete disaster the first time, so they won’t touch it again, but learning the basics is really important.
“With soup, for example, if you take fresh ingredients and blitz them up you have an instant meal, and it’s all about getting people over that first threshold.
“Using store cupboard essentials, many of which are canned foods such as tomatoes and chick peas, on a Saturday night instead of reaching for the takeaway menu can make a real difference on both your time and your finances.”
With 18 cooking demonstrations by James on the new channel, people can look forward to more gastronomic stimulation, a healthier cash-flow, and, ultimately, food that tastes great and is quick and simple to make.
With incentives such as these, a home-cooked meal looks increasingly more appealing.
James Martin serves classic British food at his new restaurant housed in Manchester235.
Image courtesy of BBC via YouTube, with thanks