Bean counting – a giant mental leap

Saucy: you might be full of beans when you work out the cost ...
Saucy: you might be full of beans when you work out the cost ...

MENTAL arithmetic was never my greatest educational achievement.

Panic would set in if I was ever asked to compute anything more difficult than subtracting my bus fare to town and the cost of buying a few chart singles, firstly from pocket money and then my trainee journalist’s salary.

But now I have become a bean counter in every sense of the word.

Watching the pennies has become more than a habit - it is turning into an obsession.

What is making it a compulsive game to play is my devious cat-and-mouse, David-and-Goliath attempt to outwit that most enormous of entities, the supermarket giant.

Just call me David - or Jack.

Jack and the bean tin. Out to outwit the greedy giant who will gobble me up for supper if I don’t get my retaliation in first.

But this is no pantomime.

It is a war of nutrition.

The fight began a few months ago when the big cheeses in the provisions world really began hammering home their message that Buying More Than You Need Is Good.

It seemed to coincide with the arrival of the coalition, the impending spending cuts and the fear that we could all be sheltering in caves and tree trunks if we did not find effective ways of saving money.

So the giants began to boom ever louder: “Buy One, Get One Free, Fi, Fo, Fum...”

And in some ways it seems to make sense. There’s no point in buying three packs of perishable items when you will only need one - but tinned or dried goods will last until the recession recedes.

You could buy numerous portions of venison and freeze them, of course - but I find they tend to be a little deer...

They are toying with us, these seemingly generous giants.

Every now and again they slip in a googly to catch us out.

And this is where my bean counting comes in handy.

Take one major store, with several outlets in Calderdale. Their own brand of baked beans is jolly tasty, and I have never liked Heinz anyway.

So one tin of own-brand beans is down from 33p to 30p. A good call. But wait - a pack of four is £1... making them 25p each (well done, Pauline - Ed).

But hang on... a pack of six is on offer at - £2.40. Are you joking? Or are you trying to tempt us into a trap by making us think the bigger the pack, the better the bargain?

The same superstore’s TV advert offered a “buy one pack of dried pasta, get two free”. Sounds like a bargain, but the packs on offer were three times the price of other versions not touched by this wonderful wand of price-slashing.

So take your glasses, if you need them, and a sling to slay the big boy if necessary. The important figures to watch for are the price per 100g, or whatever measurement applies in the small print, rather than the headline that booms like a pantomime giant.