There’s no doubt that times are tough at the moment, with many people struggling to make ends meet. But is there any way we can ease the burden a little bit so it isn’t all doom and gloom? I teamed up with life coach Rosemary McLean and super-scrimper Zofia Millar, and here are our tips on judicious food shopping. I’d love to hear your suggestions too.
Pay with small coins, but mix and match them with larger coins to avoid refusal at the shop. The act of having to count out coins helps curb spending. Alternatively you can collect all your small coins in a tin, then change them at the bank when you’ve collected, say, £5 or £10.
Buy supermarket own brands. Often these are of a similar quality, and the reason they’re cheaper is due to less advertising and cheaper packaging. And bleach is bleach, right?
Shop locally for certain items, e.g. ethnic grocery stores have a wide variety of grains and pulses, and for certain things such as spices and herbs they’re much cheaper than supermarkets.
Check the net content of packaging – 2 litres of milk at 99p is more expensive than 4 pints at 99p.
Make a meal plan for the week, and shop for most items once. You’ll probably need more of the basic products such as milk and bread during the week, and here you can support your local traders.
Make stews and one-pot dishes which can go in the freezer, and then be stretched to another meal with extra veg, tinned tomatoes, or a tin of beans.
Be creative with leftovers, and make them into soups, salads, or curries. This is also a good way to get your 5-a-day.
Mix juice with water. A carton will last longer, and is better for you anyway because of the high sugar content, even in juices without added sugar.
Pay attention to sell-by dates, but remember that some products such as cheeses, fruit and veg, etc. may be at their peak around or even after the sell-by date. Go to Waitrose or M&S at the end of a Sunday to get high quality products at a reduced price.
Prepare a whole bag of potatoes when you buy them to avoid them going off in the cupboard. Parboil, cool, and store in the freezer. Great for making roast potatoes. The same can be done with carrots.
Bruised apples make a lovely stewed apple pudding, with a bit of brown sugar and a cinnamon stick.
Chop fresh ginger, and freeze it. Very few dishes require the use of a whole piece of ginger, and it’ll end up going off otherwise.
Make breadcrumbs out of stale bread, or the last bits from a packet of Cornflakes. Can be stored in a Kilner jar until you need to use them. Alternatively feed them to the wild birds and avoid buying expensive bird feed.
Buy bog-offs (buy-1-get-1-free), and use your freezer.
Buy loo paper in bulk, stock up when on special offer.
Learn to complain if something isn’t to your satisfaction, but do it politely and the right way.
Above all, don’t buy caviar for your cats. They don’t like it anyway!
Some great ideas here – but I think #4 is written the wrong way around…..a litre is nearly 2 pints of milk.
Durrr! You’re absolutely right. Thanks for pointing this out – I have now corrected my school boy error 🙂
Damn, and I’d just loaded up with the best Beluga… Thanks for the tips, Henri! Very interesting reading.
Great tips Henri – I don’t have a cat but I’m gonna try cutting down on the caviar anyway. 🙂
They would be perfectly happy with lobster 🙂
I like the idea of parboiling then freezing your potatoes. There are some interesting tips, Henriette. Thank you!
Many thanks for commenting. Yes, I’m definitely going to cut back on the old caviar too. Nasty stuff anyway, and no way does it beat a proper roast potato 😉
I’d be interested to know if you can roast the poatoes straight from the freezer or if they need to be defrosted first. I boiled a bag of potatoes up last week and they kept us going for days-fried, roasted etc-a real timesaver too. Also lately I’ve been making minestrone soup with the carrots, celery, tomatoes etc which need using up, then freezing a couple of portions. Thanks for this post-look forward to part II!
Anita – if you peel and halve them, in other words make sure the pieces aren’t too big, you don’t need to defrost them first. This is kind of a home-made version of “Aunt Bessie’s” potatoes which you can buy in the supermarket freezer cabinet (at a price!)
I think you were right, Henri. A litre is a pint and three quarters, so two litres is three and a half pints. Either way, milk costs about twice that, though – I think! I love some of your suggestions. My own tip when shopping for one is to avoid those 3 for 2, etc., for perishable goods. I can now see more of what’s in the fridge and I’m throwing less food away.
I completely agree, Nora, having a overview of what’s in the fridge helps reduce waste. I also think shopping for one person can be more difficult than shopping for several people, because you’ll need to buy 1 of various items anyway, say 1 packet of cereal, and there’s a limit to how much one person can actually get through in a week!
Good tips. Here’s another. A whole fresh chicken is much cheaper than the equivilant of portions. Portion it yourself, in breasts, legs, thighs, wings. Wrap individually in cling film and freeze what you’re not using that day.
Don’t throw away the carcass. The fresh carcass makes delicious Chicken soup. You can freeze that too for use another day. Boil up the carcass, strip off the meat, use the stock for delicious Chicken soup mixed with veggies.
Excellent idea, Marilyn! We do tend to buy chicken pieces and although we sometimes freeze half of a big packet, it’s still the same section of the chicken, as it were. It’s nice to have a variation, e.g. drumsticks are perfect for BBQs.
Oh, Henri, I was hoping to learn a new trick or two! Do all of those and have done for years – probably my generation, but your comment above is quite right – it’s extremely difficult shopping for one. And sadly, we have no ethnic groceries and Waitrose and M&S are a) a bit upmarket if you’re trying to save money and b) not in the Whitstable area! My tip – don’t drive miles to find and ethnic store or M&S and spend more money on petrol in the process. I have binned the caviar, by the way…
I’m very sorry to disappoint, Lesley 😦 but I completely agree with you about not spending petrol on hunting down ethnic shops, or any other kind of shop for that matter! I suppose I’m very lucky where I live that we have a number of those, and that I can walk to do most of my shopping, except for the big weekly one.
Here’s another one: if you end up with mangy looking bananas that nobody wants to eat, freeze them until you have enough to make a banana loaf/bread/cake/muffin. They go black and look really odd when you defrost and peel them but I guarantee they taste fine once baked.
Thanks for that, it’s a really good idea. I love banana muffins – well, any kind of muffin(!) – and bananas do have a lovely sweet flavour when they’re baked, which probably means one can cut back on the sugar.
Henri, don’t tell my cats about the caviar, they’ll never eat their Whiskas now! (and no, they won’t eat own-brand. Trust me, I’ve tried!). But they do get whatever brand happens to be on offer. It’s expensive feeding a small pride of them!
As for own-brands, I used to work at a flour mill, and can tell you that plain flour is plain flour whatever the packaging. It’s completely identical in most cases, and will come out of the same machine. Even the supermarket value brands: Tesco Value was exactly the same as Tesco ordinary, which in turn was the same as the branded flour (A friend who worked at a biscuit factory said the same was true of chocolate Bourbons) . However, if you want self-raising flour, pay for it. The Value flour was specially milled with fewer raising agents to be deliberately inferior, and we even had to send batches back if they were too good!
My mum always said the two things she’d never economise on were coffee and loo roll. I think I’m with her on that!
Okay, I won’t mention the (shhh!) caviar. I certainly don’t want to be responsible for your cats developing a habit! Your mum sounds like a wise woman – coffee and loo roll are such basic things that surely a little luxury should be allowed. I’d rather skimp on other things. Btw, thanks for the tip re. self-raising flour – we bake a lot, and buy both kinds of flour from Lidl, which, despite many people’s perception, is a very good quality and not too pricey.
So true about planning menus. It saves time too because you know what you’re having without standing there dithering.
Can’t wait for part II of this.
That’s our reasoning for planning menus, and another is that if you know you’re having, say, chicken one day and know that there will be leftovers, that can go in a risotto later in the week. So that’s two meals already sorted. As for Part 2, I’ll be talking about Health & Beauty on a budget.
Lots of good info, here Henriette. I too am looking forward to the next part.
Fabulous tips and that idea re potatoes. My husband always buys them and I am always throwing out old potatoes! No caviar for cats, oh noo, no, no.
Glad you found it useful, Zana and Carol!
V. interested in the tip about the potatoes, Henri, hadn’t thought of that one. Thanks!