Friday, 30 January 2015

Shopping For One (or Shopping On A Budget)

I'm writing this as a bit of a companion to my Cooking For One series. When you're buying food for yourself it can be really tricky not to go over board and buy everything you want, only for it to go off before you've had a chance to eat it. Over the past year of buying my own food, and having almost no waste, here's what I've picked up.

1) Know your space. If you're like me and are at university sharing a tiny kitchen with three (or more) other people, you've got to watch out and make sure you're only using as much space as you're assigned. If everyone's big shop falls on the same day, you need to know that everyone will have enough room in the fridge and freezer for their bits and bobs. Store cupboard stuff is easier to stock up on, and keeping spares in a box in your room is always an option if you're running out of space.

2) Check dates. This is my one big bug-bear with budget shops like ALDI - they don't put dates on any of their fresh fruit and veg. I don't hold a lot in store by best before dates, but it does give you an indication of how fresh the product is. Food almost always lasts longer than its BBE (best before end), but if the BBE is dated for a couple of days in the future, don't expect it to last for a week and a half.

Berries are the one big exception to the 'don't worry too much about the BBE' rule. If they're out of season, they'll go off pretty quickly, sometimes even before the expiry (depending on how you keep them). Be aware when you buy them you'll have to eat them in a couple of days.

Bread is another funny one. You can mostly ignore the date, especially if you're going to freeze it, and just check for mould if you're using out of date bread. Stale bread can also be used in various recipes etc. 

3) Expect a similar diet. Almost every night of the week I eat some variation of chopped veg, stir fried, with tomato sauce. To mix it up I add different seasonings, and pair it with variations of pasta, rice and tortillas. Cooking this way means I know what veg I need so when I buy it I know I'll use it up. 

4) Quorn. A lot of people turn their noses up at Quorn or other meat-free alternatives, but it's cheap and if you flavour it right it doesn't taste too dissimilar. Meat is expensive, and cooking from frozen is always a little risky. I always have a pack of mince, chicken and sausages in the freezer - and they're almost always on a 3 for £5 deal.

5) Pick your priorities. Personally, I save money on chopped tomatoes by buying the cheapest version and eek out my portions with water, but add more flavour with a tomato puree. Similarly I choose not to buy milk and use water in my porridge instead. When it comes to herbal tea I splurge and get something more expensive. It's all about balancing out what does and doesn't matter to you - and don't just pick brands you've always used if there's something cheaper you've never tried.

6) Staples. Seasonings (salt, pepper, mixed herbs, chili powder, cinnamon, curry powder) will make the world of difference to your food. Rice, spaghetti, pasta, noodles, lentils and chickpeas are all cheap and are great for bulking out meals and adding carbs. I love lazy garlic and chili too as they're a quick way to give a meal a zing. Olive oil is essential to every meal I make.

7) Snacks. Don't forget these or else you'll kick yourself. Something sweet for after dinner and something salty for a mid-day treat. Different spreads for toast can be a great way to accommodate for snacks without having to spend extra money. Things you can take on the go are also really useful - and whilst a packed of nuts might be expensive you'll thank yourself when you're out and about and fancy a nibble!

8) Eggs and Baked Beans. I almost always have a packet of eggs on the go, and a couple of tins of baked beans in the cupboard. Eggs are a great way to have a quick, healthy meal, and pared with some baked beans makes a really nice little brunch or brinner! Eggs can bulk out old rice, make a quick and simple omelette, or, if you're feeling fancy, a baked frittata. Beans work great in chilli recipes, or add them to a curry to eek it out a little.

9) Don't go overboard! You can always do an extra small shop if you're running low, but chances are buying a range of fruit and veg each week will last. I go through one large carrot a week, one parsnip, an aubergine can last a week and a half, a packet of spinach, a punnet of mushrooms, a broccoli, some green beans, a couple of peppers and a packet of cherry tomatoes. That all comes in easily under £10. Add in some oranges, a bunch of bananas and maybe some grapes you've got a nice healthy mix of stuff to keep you going for lunches and dinners for a week.

10) Cheese, Gromit. I love cheese. Cheddar and feta are fridge staples, and halloumi makes a great and filling change too. Never spend more than £2.50 on a nice block of cheddar, though, as you can almost always get it on a deal.

Those are my tips and tricks for shopping on a budget for one. If you've got any suggestions, tweet me @VickiMaitland or leave a comment below. If you follow me on Instagram (@vickimaitland) I often post pictures of my food - as well as sneak previews for the blog post.

No comments:

Post a Comment