Hello Dear Reader,
I was sent some questions, so I thought I would answer them and I'm sure your comments will help as well as I often learn so much from you. Here's the questions I've been sent and my answers follow them. Feel free to give some of your answers when you comment. P.s - feel free to nominate me for a blog award too if you'd like > click the link on the right of the screen.
What's your advice for planning the weekly shop?
I start each weekend with a stock take to see what I have in the house. I check the pantry, the store, the fridge and freezer and cool store for root veg. I can usually get two week's groceries out of what I already have in the house. Do I have enough bread flour and dried yeast to make bread for the week? Do I have enough vegetables and frozen veg to see me through the week. I make sure I have enough but I'm not overstocked. It's just too easy to have four bags of sugar in the pantry and not to need to buy any for weeks. I then, from what I have, menu plan. If I have three tins of chick peas, then I'll Google search 'chick pea recipes'. I use everything that I have, tired veg can be peeled and grated for soup, the sprouting bits cut off potatoes and I certainly eat the rest.
How can you keep grocery bills low?
I menu plan! I have a collection of tried and trusted recipes and I vary them. I can make a lasagne, so I can make a seafood lasagne, or any meat or any kind of veg lasagne. I can make a bechamel sauce so I can make a veg and cheese pasta bake. I keep bread crusts and wizz them in the processor to make bread crumbs and make a veggie crumble by making a light cheese sauce, stirring it through cooked veggies and covering with breadcrumbs and a scant sprinkle of cheese. I never, ever go to the supermarket without a plan and a list. I also stay well away from flashy supermarkets who use every marketing trick to get you to impulse buy. I shop instead, in Lidl, Aldi, the local butchers and the pannier market. I use the local green grocer to bulk buy trays of eggs and sacks of spuds. I also set a budget and shop to suit that budget. We eat well, everything's home made and I get better at cooking the more I practise.
What are some old shopping/food mistakes you used to make that wasted money? And what do you do differently now?
I used to believe being green meant buying green. Now I know that being green is about buying less and trying when ever possible to buy local. I'm not sure if eco-products can be described as a waste of money but they were certainly costing me money I didn't have. Now, when I buy anything, I shop savvy. I price compare, I don't have brand loyalty and I use the internet to research food prices. If I know leeks are abundant and cheap, then funnily enough, that's what we eat a lot of.
If you've got several kids, it can be hard to plan meals everyone likes. What are some crowd-pleaser meals that have also saved your family money?
If you have fussy kids, who are faddy eaters,then shame on you the parent as you've brought them up to be like that, and you've pandered to them. To get a child to eat what ever is put in front of them, simply don't have any junk food in the house and don't feed them anything at all between meals. I brought my children up on mince and gravy with mash, on bubbling pots of stew and dumplings, of home made chicken soup, on apple pie and custard. I didn't give them a choice and there was no snacking allowed between meals. Sweets were a very occasional treat for birthdays or Easter and not dished out for flippant reasons. If I served them anything and they turned their noses up at it, they were allowed to leave it but there was nothing else. My son will still not eat a runny egg yolk and my daughter still won't eat dried fruit in a cake or in any form. However, there certainly are crowd pleasers that are simple to cook. Cottage pie, stew and dumplings, fishy pie, pasties, quiche, curry, soup, home made bread and cakes. There are so many recipes that are so easy to make.
How often do you have meals out? And how do you make what's normally a splurge affordable?
Eating out is, in my opinion, just not necessary! End of! It's for the lazy and spoilt. I fear we are becoming less and less capable of looking after ourselves and I for one, will not succumb to such tardiness! What can be better than cooking with and for your own family. Nothing beats a home cooked meal around your friend's table where you and they can be themselves, where children with full tummies can slip off to play with toys whilst the parents keep a careful eye on them and not the waiters. Restaurant customers want their food quickly, not realising, as so many of them can't cook, that real food takes a while to prepare and cook. Restaurants resort to part cooking and 'refreshing' to reheating and chain pubs and restaurants have every salad, every vegetable portion, every scoop of potatoes ready weighed and bagged to be microwaved in readiness for the impatient diner. Restaurants? My advice is cook at home and set the table, take time to sit and eat and talk. What we love the most about eating is the togetherness, the chatter and the eye contact and all of that can be had in your own dining room.
Some people buy groceries with good intentions only to throw away spoilt food later. Any food storage tips to help people avoid this?
If you have checked and stock taked all the food, then you'll know what to use first. I also ignore best by, best before and use by dates. If something is off, then I'll know, it will look off, smell off and by using the tip of my tongue, taste off. I don't buy more fresh veg than I can use. I keep root vegetables in a dark cool place, I buy UHT milk and keep that in the cupboard, I have a stock of meat, veg and cooked fruit in the freezer, I have a stock of tinned fruit and vegetables and they last for months. If I have vegetables that are looking a bit wilted then I'll concoct a big pot of vegetable and lentil soup and freezer portions of it in old margarine tubs. I always strip a chicken carcass as soon as we've finished Sunday lunch and can usually find enough meat, along with any spare veg from the lunch and some gravy, even some bits of stuffing to make into a pie filling. Again, I would pop the lot into a margarine tub - label it 'chicken pie filling' and place it in the freezer straight away. If I open a jar of jam and it has mould, I scrape off the mould and eat what's underneath. If bread has mould then we cut it off and eat the rest, the same with cheese. Stop fussing and remember than food is not to be wasted.
Other frugal food advice?
I create our own ready meals and cook in bulk. I fill up my freezer with bolognaise sauce, with quiche already cut into portions for lunch, with pots of cheese sauce, with homemade cakes and pies, with stews and casseroles, cottage pie and shepherds pie, with faggots, haslet and sausage rolls. I then have a ready supply of meals for the days where I just can't be bothered and need to pull something out of the freezer and have ready without any effort. I then don't turn to the takeaway, the instant but expensive supermarket meals but instead always have dinner in minutes.
Now Dear Reader, over to you. You've seen the questions I was sent, feel free to join in and help answer them.
Love Froogs xxxxxxxx