Forget ready meals, true convenience food is all about cooking smarter, saving you time and money in the kitchen – and no, you don’t need an air fryer to make it work! 


If you’ve opened your presents this Christmas to find one of this year’s most wanted items – a Ninja Kitchen air fryer – then lucky you! Because I have a feeling you’ll be using it rather a lot once the festive celebrations are over and we’re staring January in the face. 

Thanks to the well-trailed cost of living crisis, once we’re past the post-Christmas splurge (and let’s face it, no matter who we are, we always spend more money than we should at this time of year), January is going to be a challenge in more ways than one. 

If you believe the hype, then air fryers are our way out of the crisis, saving you both money and calories (my mum is such a fan, she should be on the Shopping Channel!) But don’t despair if you didn’t manage to get your hands on an air fryer; one of the easiest ways to cut costs is through what and how we cook and there are plenty of ways to do both. 

Great British Life: If you believe the hype, then air fryers are our way out of the crisis, saving you both money and caloriesIf you believe the hype, then air fryers are our way out of the crisis, saving you both money and calories (Image: Getty Images)

One of the most obvious ways is to do a food budget and stick to it. My daughter, who is in her first year at university and still getting used to the eye-watering cost of cooking for yourself, has had to embrace ways to shop and cook smarter to make her (very strict) budget work. Now, I’m not endorsing eating pasta every day, but making wise choices like batch cooking, one-pot cooking and cooking the right things is simply good common sense, and not just confined to student digs.  

I think one of the biggest problems is our addiction to convenience food. I know that there are a lot of very, very good cooks out there, but we can be very convenience-led in our food, and that comes with a price tag. I remember way back in the ’80s when packets of ready-grated cheese were available for the first time. My gran’s voice still rings in my ears to this day: ‘do you really need to pay extra for someone to grate your cheese for you?’ 

Well, as always, gran was the voice of reason. Of course we don’t need anyone to grate our cheese for us any more than we need someone to peel and chop our carrots into uniform orange batons or to wash, chop, and bag our vegetables for our weekly stir-fry. I know why we like it, but this addiction to convenience food comes at a huge price: not only is it more costly, but it’s never going to be as good as what you prepare yourself. Much better – for our pockets, planet and plates – is to choose freshly-grown, seasonal ingredients from one of the Cotswolds’ fantastic local farm shops, growers or markets, and get the knives out at home. 

Great British Life: Succulent lamb stew, cooked in its own time in a slow cookerSucculent lamb stew, cooked in its own time in a slow cooker (Image: Getty Images)

We also need to look again at how we cook. Rather than adding expensive jars of sauce to create flavour at the end of cooking, it’s about making the cooking do the work. That’s why I’m such a fan of the slow cooker (you can keep your air fryers, thank you very much!). It’s a genuinely magic piece of kit that transforms anything you put into it into a tasty, well-cooked feast. Pick up a cheap cut of meat from your local butcher (skirt, brisket, shin or shank) and hours later you’ve got beautiful pulled pork, beef stew or slow-cooked lamb, falling off the bone, melt-in-the-mouth tender, with a depth of flavour that you just can’t get through conventional cooking. 

For me, this is convenience food in its truest, simplest sense. It’s a grown-up version of student cooking and, best of all, I don’t need a £150 gadget to show me how!

Warner’s Taste Club celebrates the best of local food and drink in the Cotswolds. Members receive food and drink news, plus money-off promotions, and invitations to exclusive events, tastings and competitions. Join for free at