Over the years we've altered the way that we've eat and the way that we shop for food has changed too. I have to say that, in spite of Mr Lovelygrey's fondness for it, a weekly menu plan doesn't work particularly well for us as his spontaneous purchases of special offer items threw the system out of sync. There's little waste now, give or take the odd bit of moldering fruit lurking in the bottom of the bowl. Our outlay on groceries isn't excessive either. I haven't totted it up, and must do so at sometime, but it's certainly way less than the figure of £136 average household weekly spend that was cited in the Daily Telegraph last year. The system we've devised seems to work for us and I hope that some of these tactics might might be helpful to try in homes where expenditure is high or food waste is a problem.
- Our veg box, ordered most weeks and a couple of meat purchases form the basis of what we cook. The meat is either bought from local butchers or is found in the reduced section of the chill cabinet at the Co-op. The food we buy isn't exclusively local and organic but I am mindful of it's origins from all sorts of ethical and ecologicial perspectives. However, this is a bit of a minefield so I'll hold my hands up and say some dodgy stuff must get through at times.
- Our store cupboard essentials are kept stocked up. The usual things such as spices, bakery ingredients, oils, rice and pasta are in evidence but we've also found other foodstuffs that have become staples in recent times because of their ability to add something to lots of different meals. Welcome to our home, smoked paprika, pearl barley and dried chorizo sausage!
- We buy the other bits and pieces that we need on an ongoing basis, say, an ingredient for a recipe that we fancy trying. I'll pop into a shop at lunchtime or on the way somewhere. This seems to use much less time in total than when we planned and carried a weekly shop.
- There's nearly always cheese and bacon in the fridge and frozen peas and prawns in the freezer.
- We often eat leftovers. This can either be the same meal again, for example, we'll have multiple roast dinners from the same joint. The meat is sliced and then put in the freezer ready for another day when it is 'resuscitated' in the steamer along with the vegetables. At other times cooked ingredients are transformed to make another meal, bubble and squeak from leftover vegetables or a pie filled with the remains of a roast.
- Food has become simpler - steamed and roasted vegetables, lots of soups to use up box contents and stews cooked at snails pace in the slow cooker or super speedily in the pressure cooker make the most of cheaper cuts of meat.
- Mr Lovelygrey makes bread. Standard loaves are regularly produced in the breadmaker but then he treats us with other types on a less regular basis; sourdough, french sticks, indian flatbreads and gorgeous sea salted coated pretzels. Once you've tasted home made pitta bread, simply make from a standard dough mix baked into flat shapes, there's no going back to the chemical tasting shop bought varieties.
- Menus make a return when there we have guests. Family Christmases need precision planning. In this situation choosing recipes ahead does seem to prevent the fridge looking overstuffed after everyone's gone home.
- Ready made food is kept to a minimum although we've some way to go with homemade biscuits, cakes and snacks. I try to remember the 'value added cost' when someone else processes ingredients. A recently prepared batch of eighteen sausage rolls made using half price puff pastry and farm assured sausages worked out at less than £1.50 in total. There's the added bonus of being in more control of what goes into food prepared for the family and , of course the little disputed fact that homemade tastes so much better too.