I love grocery shopping. I love walking around the shop picking up random things up and day dreaming about all the delicious things that extra jar of chutney could be put in, disregarding the fact that I already had three sitting in my fridge. The problem for me has always been that if I pick something up it almost always goes in my trolley, regardless of how useful the forty-fifth can of chickpeas or that yummy chutney destined to a year long hibernation in my pantry will be.
But when we moved to the farm and I had to do a three hour round trip to the shops I eventually was forced to look over my shopping habits. And thanks to that I have become a smarter shopper. When I realised I most likely would only have a date with a grocery shop once a week I needed to plan my shopping. I couldn’t just pop down to the store if I forgot something. It was hard in the beginning but now I love my weekly shops!
I have to say too that as I grow older I’m also more aware of the extreme food waste most of us produce, and I’m keen to try and reduce my own. Doing only one shop a week doesn’t only save money; it saves me time too and provides us with equally amounts of delicious food, but less sad veggies sitting in ourfridge drawer.
While writing this I have to admit that I am still not an amazing shopper but I’ve become a lot better at using most of what I actually buy, and I make sure all my veggie scraps go to the chooks so I don’t feel too bad when I let a sad little zucchini lie to long in the fridge.
Anyway (sorry, I’m good at rambling away), if you, like me, are keen on cutting down on spending and being a more sustainable shopper I have collected a few tips to help you (and me lol) along the way!
Before starting, figure out how much food you usually need for one or two weeks. Take the time to write down for a week how much you shop and note how much of it you actually used. This is not only a good way tosee where you’re getting unnecessary expenses; it’s also a good way to seewhere your food waste might come from.
If you always buy an eggplant when you go for your grocery shop but it then just sits there in the fridge, looking more and more wrinkly until you throw it out – not buying it is a good start (and that comes from someone who ALWAYS used to do that until I found the glorious Ottolenghi’s egg plant recipes!).
Doyour shopping online
This not only saves valuable time it’s also agreat way to keep control of your spending. You cannot only find the best deals on things like your favourite pasta or chocolate, you can also review your purchases and take away unnecessary items before you process your order. Saving both money and a pantryfull of things you are not likely to use.
Write comprehensive lists
My mother in law used to be the ultimate twice-a-month shopper, much thanks to her lists. When we moved to the farm she told me to always have a piece of paper on the fridge where you could write up allthe grocery item (or dishwasher tablets or toilet paper which I find are so easy to forget to buy). Having that list running makes it easy when I sit downto do my online order, as I don’t have to rummage around the pantry trying tosee what I need to stock up on. But a note on this, also make sure that when you do your order online you see what’s in season and don’t be afraid to change things up too!
Do meal plans for the week
Made a Bolognese on the Monday? Make an extra big pot to allow for some leftover mince sauce. It will last a day or two in the fridge so why not add a heap of mushrooms and veggies to it and make lasagna on the Wednesday? Making a meal plan and taking into account whatyou might have as leftovers and help make your shopping last a little longer, without skimping one the yummy meals. Also buying versatile items is key (such as veggies which can be used for many different meals, cauliflower is one my favs as it can be made into both rice and soup!), that way you can change your meal plan around depending what you feel like cooking.
Useup pantry and freezer items
I find, and I think I’m not alone in this, that it’s incredibly easy to just keep onbuying things like tinned tomatoes and chickpeas. Or chocolate… but that’s adifferent thing because that ALWAYS gets eaten! The tinned tomatoes starts to after a few months end up collecting dust in the pantry, as I keep on buying more and more of the basic stuff I think I need – but not using it up nearly at the same rate.
Have a proper look in your pantry and meal plan accordingly. During seeding or harvest on the farm I have three to four grown men to feed every night for dinner and instead of trying to always buy new groceries I look what I already have at hand and make dinners from that.
*I used up the black beans with some rice and nachos.
*Corn and other veggies from the freezer and put in wraps to make burritos – with a bit of salsa I had bought ages ago it made a really yummy meal.
*I made bean and mince pasta with tomato sauce.
*I used up that “old” block of chocolate to make a chocolate cream to go between store bought cookies. It was a quick treat and the sugar hit the guys needed to keep going.
* The boiled leftover potatoes became delicious potato cakes with bacon I had in the freezer.
The list could go on and it wasn’t always fancy food but it used up a tremendous amount of pantry items and kept the hard working farmers happy. To put it simply, see what you already have and make a meal out of that, often great recipes will come out of it too!
Get your fresh veggies once a week if needed, and try to do so from a Farmer’s Market
This is a great idea if you, like me, end up chomping through a fair bit of fresh stuff each week. Shopping your pantry and freezer items in the grocery shop online and then buying your fresh veggies from local farmers is a great way to keep your shopping more sustainable and environmentally friendly. If you live in a city it’s also a lovely family outing, walking around themarket together. Perfect for kiddies and a relaxing way to start a weekend day!
A fun way to encourage the little ones to eat more veggies could be to make them choose a new vegetable each time you’re at the market. Then you can research a recipe when you come home and cook together! I can’t wait to try this with Pippa once she’s a little older.
I should add that as with everything if you put extreme pressure on yourself and get militant about not entering a grocery shop unless one has passed, then I am pretty likely to fall out of love with the idea of shopping like this. I know I would! Now I don’thave much of an option as we live so far away from the shops and when I am on holiday for example and stay close to all the glorious shops I am definitely one to go in more often to just pick up an extra package of blueberries. But I try to limit myself and not go overboard… it doesn’t always work but it’s about trying isn’t it! But yeah, if you run out of apples and want some, obviously go and get them (unless you live in the middle of nowhere and can’t, like yours truly)! And if you just feel like something, go and get that too but maybe just stay away from buying ten jars of canned chickpeas just because they are on special. If you really need them you can put them on your list andget them later. The chickpeas won’t runaway, I promise.