A week's eating according to the supermarkets
"Key words and phrases - 30 minute; 5 ingredients; Under $5.00; Quick; Easy; Fresh; Healthy"
I see it is five days since I posted on my blog - all down to overeating and over drinking with my visiting sister and her husband and our friends and family. Today I am fasting. And attempting to get back into the swing of writing a post a day.
So today, as it's that time of month I am turning to my old reliables, the supermarket magazines, for my inspiration. There will be more in the days and weeks to come, but today I am writing about the similarities - and differences - between their approach to the eternal question 'What's for dinner?". Indeed the Coles Magazine has a regular feature that is called just that, although it varies slightly with its emphasis. Woolworths, on the other hand don't have a regular feature as such, although they sort of do. It just gets called different things. This month it's Budget Weeknight Dinners.
So let's look at Woolworths first of all because I have the actual magazine beside me. I'm not sure whether the Coles Magazine has come out yet or whether I have missed it, but I have downloaded a pdf of the online version.
Actually as a sort of aside perhaps I should start with their approach to online versions. As I said, you can download the complete Coles Magazine as a pdf, or flick through the pages as it were. They used to have an app for the iPad, but gave that up some time ago. I don't know why. Woolworths doesn't have an online version of the magazine, although you can access all the recipes on their website. Not as good.
The theme of this week's Woolworths Fresh Ideas Magazine was 'Scrap food waste' and almost every section tackled this theme somehow. But not their weeknight dinners. The emphasis here is cost and speed.
"Preparing midweek meals will be a breeze with these easy-to-make-dishes that are ready in no more than 30 minutes and cost $5.00 or less per serve." Woolworths Fresh Ideas Magazine
So what are their offerings?
In order of appearance: Prawn and tofu satay laksa; Cheesy broccoli burgers; Silverbeet and ricotta rolls; Baby carrot, harissa and feta frittata; Vietnamese-style BBQ pork with noodles and salad; Beef kofta with celery heart and cabbage salad; Grilled chicken with beet and onion salad
What is interesting about this particular group is that almost all the trendy, and health conscious options make an appearance - tofu, a vegetarian burger, another vegetarian meal with the spinach and ricotta rolls, ditto for the frittata. That's three vegetarian meals out of half, and I'm guessing you could leave out the prawns in the laksa. Seafood of course, and just a bit of meat, but served with salads of trendy things. There is also a substantial Asian touch in the laksa, the kofta, and the Vietnamese pork; Italian with the frittata and the spinach and ricotta rolls and good old Australian - though not quite - in the burger and the grilled chicken. Looking at that selection I don't think there is a single thing that my mother would have been familiar with. But it's all so ordinary and everyday today. And the supermarket magazines have put it there. Or are they merely responding to trends that come from elsewhere?
I should also point out that, of course, there are a few Woolworths products being promoted there - although not a large amount. Most of the ingredients are either condiments or are fresh food.
So what about Coles? Well this month Coles have extended their What's for Dinner section to four weeks of meals that you can mix and match. Their emphasis is slightly different:
"Need quick and easy meals? We've created a month's worth of delicious 5-ingredient recipes that are ideal for the whole family." Coles Magazine
And those five ingredients heavily feature Coles products which cunningly actually means that you are really using more than five ingredients. Mind you they do then supplement this list of quick and easy meals with two from their 'Ambassadors' who do actually only use five ingredients.
Lots of similarities - tofu again - this time with another trendy ingredient - pumpkin, more kofta, pork, and a heavy Italian influence (mixed with Asian) with the pasta and pizza. Not quite as vegetarian as Woolworths though. Nevertheless there is a very similar vibe to Woolworths.
Then there's Curtis Stone, sort of doing the same thing only in a rather more sophisticated way? Or is he?
"To help you breeze through the week, I've created fresh, delicious dinners that make the most of summer produce. These meals are full of veggies and packed with flavour, so they're sure to be new family favourites." Curtis Stone
So here we have: Chicken and chorizo salad with avocado; Blackened pork chops with creamy corn; Speedie Aussie beef stir-fry ( - it has a different name online -Steak and green bean stir-fry with ginger, garlic and herbs) and Vegetarian masala with zucchini and eggplant
Salads, Asian, Vegetarian, but not really anything Italian here. Pork chops are a bit of a star though. Well they are relatively cheap, and let's not forget that these magazines are aimed at 'ordinary' people not the gourmet rich listers. And not so many Coles products either - much fresher stuff. But no more difficult than the What's for dinner? offerings.
Well, so what am I saying you ask? Well these two magazines are the most widely read magazines in Australia. They are free and available in your local supermarket as long as you are there at the right time - they are hugely popular and gone in an instant, so I suspect they could probably move many more.
Of course their primary aim is advertising. We all know that. But look at these delicious options. And yes they are. On the whole they are healthy, cheap, quick and easy. But most of all they are reflections of what what we are all eating these days. They are so common that they are almost boring. If we don't make these things we are buying them all as takeaway, or frozen meals, or chilled meals. Or we actually go out to our local Asian, or Italian or Mexican restaurant and eat them there. And by the way my New Year's resolution of eating more frequently in my local cafés is a complete failure so far.
The fact that Woolworths has dedicated this particular issue to ways of avoiding food waste is also a theme that is very current in the food world. As I said, I am not at all sure whether these magazines are creating the trends or reflecting them. It's a sort of chicken and egg situation I feel. Interesting though.
I wonder if anyone actually works their way through those weekly plans?
POSTSCRIPT ON PLUM CAKES
According to my husband the winner is The New York Times Classic Plum Torte. Mind you all of them took much longer to cook than the recipes specified. Particularly the limoncello tart. And I slightly burnt the winner as well. Though it still won. And I didn't realise the polenta and almond one was an upside down cake, so put the lemon glaze on the wrong side of the cake. They all tasted good though. Well you can't really go wrong with plums.