WHERE should one go, should one need a bit of budgeting advice?

Well, in these straightened times, happily George Eustice has some interesting advice for us.

Let us neatly sidestep all the political decisions that have led to a point where London Fire Brigade has issued an urgent warning against burning fuel on open fires indoors because the rise in energy bills has resulted in people doing just this and, in one case, burning their home down.

Let us gloss over an acceleration in food inflation - up from 3.3 per cent in March to 3.5 per cent last month.

The environment secretary, when asked on Sky News what he would tell families who can't afford a roast chicken for Sunday lunch, said that shoppers can "contain and manage their household budget" by changing from supermarket own brands to value ranges.

Mr Eustice is likely thinking of Waitrose Essentials, that quintessentially delightful range of must-haves like king prawns, Parmigiano Reggiano and couscous.

I don't like to mock the Waitrose Essentials range because food snobbery is the most pathetic thing. Classism directed at food and, as an extension, where people shop is part of this country's problem and a good deal to do with the obesity crisis.

We all need food as sustenance but only some of us have the luxury of food as pleasure. Everyone, though, deserves to eat nice things and cashew butter and fresh white peaches belong just as much on a kitchen table in Castlemilk as they do in a pantry in Giffnock.

I wonder if Mr Eustice has ever popped a 22p tin of beans in his trolley and called it a good day out. With an expense budget that allowed him to claim nearly £200,000 in a year, it's unlikely he's scrimping on the basics.

It's tricky, because buying own brand foods is not bad advice. When your finances are stretched, careful budgeting is the obvious and only way to go.

If I might stretch myself to have some sympathy for the politician, he's in a difficult position. Mr Eustice can hardly say, "Well, we've heavy gubbed it for everyone so they can just live without a Sunday roast. Or, indeed, three meals a day."

But it is galling, every time a cost of living food based story arises, to hear the scoffs of people who have never had to budget talk about how easy it is to boil some 70p pasta or a 30p baked potato. Like I say, food as fuel and food as joy are two different things and to relentlessly be denied the latter is hard going.

Shopping on a tight budget is time consuming and draining. You can't pop round the supermarket chucking what you fancy into your trolley. Or, as is more likely, scrolling though a website and adding whatever you fancy to your virtual basket.

Weighing the pros and cons of every purchase, carefully adding prices, making tough choices as to what to leave and what to keep - it's hard.

Planning ahead, sticking to careful recipes, leaving no room for error or extras is all additional labour not carried out by those with disposable incomes.

Finding bargains and shopping around is often out of the reach of people who have nothing to spare. Local shops are expensive and the best bargains at the supermarket, meaning people without cars who can't travel further afield are further penalised.

In our sister title, the Glasgow Times, each week I make up a "shopping basket" of essential items and go round the six main supermarkets looking for the best value buys of the week.

The prices fluctuate quite markedly and you can save a fair few pounds by shopping around. It takes me a couple of hours to do it thoroughly, though, and, realistically, you're not going to be going to multiple supermarkets for your groceries unless you have free transport and a lot of time on your hands.

Some things save money one way and cost another, which is quite often what middle class politicians struggle to grasp.

The whole thing ties in neatly with the wrongthink around the obesity crisis. That is, that being overweight is a sign of personal moral failing - and don't we love to be chided by the Conservatives for personal moral failings - rather than a combination of complex factors tightly linked to poverty.

What it all speaks to is a lack of insight or understanding. Which goes a long way towards explaining how the cost of living crisis came about in the first place.

If we could only purchase empathy for the ruling classes, well, that would pay its worth in dividends.