Supermarket price madness

A lot is being said lately about supermarket prices. Mostly, it’s about the false claims on packaging to do with better value.

Today was like most other Sundays for me – I go shopping. And like most shopping days I end up on Sainsburys where I go through the rows of shelves looking for items I need.

Tomatoes in tins were the amusing items today. Actually, the price of tinned tomatoes was the issue.

Look closely at the image – you’ll see two prices. On the left is the price for a single tin. On the right is the economy pack of four tins together. You think you know the big pack will be cheaper, but just check…

Yup. It really does cost much more! And this is one small example of dozens I could have pointed out today.

Should supermarkets be held to account for this? Probably. Will they? I very much doubt it.

Jamie’s Italian, Westfield

Today I had the pleasure of travelling to Shepherd’s Bush in West London to visit the Westfield shopping centre. I am not a keen shopper, to say the least, and the prospect of walking arund a shopping mall doesn’t fill me with glee. However, there are times when it is important to do something that pleases your ‘significant other’, and today was that time. Or so I thought.

The plan for the day included lunch at Jamie’s Italian – a small chain of restaurants run by Jamie Oliver. Now, I rather like the cheeky chappie and enjoy trying out his recipes. I was actually thinking the day would be rescued by a trip to a half decent lunch stop. I was not disappointed.

Jamie’s Italian is a stand-alone building on the south terrace at Westfield. It is quite similar internally to the ‘Fifteen’ restaurant in East London, but not quite as plush. The menu is ample, with plenty on there for all tastes and as it turns out the service is also rather good, too. We didn’t have to book, and just walked right in. We were shown to a table almost immediately, and I’m glad we got there when we did – the place certainly began to fill up around 1pm, with customers waiting for tables for around half an hour.

So it was I found myself ordering a pasta dish of prawn linguine. It was simply awesome. Plenty of flavours, texture was great, enough to fill a good sized bowl and amongst the best lunches I’ve ever had! I can’t really explain the balance of flavours in this meal, but suffice to say there was a great blend of garlic and chilli, some fennel, a rich tomato sauce and the most succulent prawns… pasta was freshly made and the entire dish was just fab.

So, if (like me) you are a little reluctant to go shopping, but you enjoy a nice plate of food, I can thoroughly recommend a trip to Shepherd’s Bush. Imagine the delight when you actually suggest a visit to a shopping centre… she’ll not know what’s come over you, but you will be making her very happy, I’m sure. I think I’ll certainly be suggesting it again soon, and heading for lunch at Jamie’s Italian once more.

When exactly is ‘off-peak’ travel in London?

It drives me crazy that hardly anyone will tell you this. It seems to be almost a secret. I asked a train guard at Tottenham Hale when he thought the first off-peak train would be, and he couldn’t tell me.

The problem is that the system is far too obtuse. The basics are as follows…

An off-peak train into London is one that will not arrive before 10am. Thus, if your journey in is 45 minutes, a train departing before 09.15 will be peak time. If it’s after that it’ll be off-peak. It all depends on your journey time.

When leaving London, any train departing before 16.29 is off-peak. You then have a peak period until 18.34, after which it is off-peak again. There are some exceptions to this, depending on your route. I normally travel home from Liverpool street on the Cambridge/Stansted line. Those heading to Braintree don’t have the peak moment, apparently. Same goes for those in Hatfield Peverel.

So, if you are at Tottenham Hale, having travelled by tube to get there, and board a train at 18.40 to go north, it will be a peak time train. You need to wait 11 minutes after 18.34 to count as an off-peak train, because it takes a train 11 minutes to get from London Liverpool Street to Tottenham Hale… your earliest off-peak train is thus 18.45 from Tottenham Hale.

See? It’s not exactly simple is it! I thought there was a move to simplify this nonsense? Instead it just seems to have become ever more complex. And don’t start me on day ranger train tickets, advance single, or any other ridiculously complicated fare structures. It really shouldn’t be so difficult.