A lot of people claim that they can’t afford to ‘cook properly’, so part of this blog will be dedicated to hints and tips for keeping things affordable and manageable for people who run busy lives. There are two simple rules for shopping which will help you out with this financially and timewise:
1) Don’t buy brands if you don’t have to. Sometimes generic is good enough.
2) Sometimes it is easier and cheaper to buy in bulk and keep it for later.
There are times when it pays to pay for quality, and there are times when it does not. My husband and I buy very few brands but quite a lot of generic store branded or economy stuff.
- Ketchup / Brown Sauce
- Tinned Tomatoes
- Tinned Carrots
- Tinned Sweetcorn
- Tinned Chicken in sauce
- Stewed Steak
- Cordial/Juice Drink
- Fruit juice
- Butter (Or butter substitute)
- Dried Fruit
- Biscuits (if I don’t have time to make them)
- Wraps or Naan bread
- Dried Pasta
- Tinned Tuna
- Tinned Corned Beef
- Baked Beans
- Gravy Granules
- Dried Yeast
- Mixed Herbs
- Garlic Granules
All of these things can be enlivened with imagination and effort and a sprinkling of herbs and spices. Some of them are fine on their own. Don’t rely on food producer to do the job for you in making stuff interesting – that’s what they charge the extra for. Buy simple and do it yourself and that goes for fresh stuff too. We also buy the following fresh produce from our supermarket’s ‘own brand’ selection:
- Chicken breasts
- Citric fruits (lemons/limes)
For fresh fruit and vegetables and bread products, if at all possible I go to the supermarket on my way home from work or in the evenings. Quite often, after 6pm, I find that the fresh produce from that day has been reduced for a quick sale, so that it doesn’t have to be thrown away. This is a great way to pick up fresh food for using in the next couple of days which would have been full price just a couple of hours earlier.
Things that we never ever compromise on:
- Sausages (This was my husband’s one concession on moving in with me. No crap sausages. 5 years down the line I heartily agree with him)
- Bread (We usually make our own, but on the times we don’t, we like good quality and fresh baked stuff)
- Frozen Chips (cheap and nasty equals pale, soggy and fatty – not good)
- Flour (we bake our own bread and cakes so we use a lot!)
- Coca Cola / Pepsi Max (economy cola is bad for my husband’s diabetes so we opt for the brands)
- Eggs (Bad egg = poor cooking/baking, free range is always best)
- Milk (powdered or long life just doesn’t taste the same)
- Rice (Poor rice turns starchy and gooey and rinsing just won’t help like it will with pasta)
- Stock Cubes (Poor stock cubes don’t dissolve properly and you just get yeasty lumps in the mix)
- Cheese (I don’t eat it, so my boy indulges with the best as a treat)
These are the things where we have noticed the difference because they are the staples of our cooking and or they are not so easy to liven up. With many of these things, if you start cooking with crap you will *get* crap.
There are things we look for special offers on:
There is always an offer on Wine somewhere. You never ever need to buy wine at full price or put up with cheap crap. Shop around, don’t stick to one store. In the UK, if Sainsburys aren’t running an offer, ASDA will be, or TESCO will be. Ditto for beers and cider. Buy when it’s cheap, keep it for later.
The day that neither Pepi Max / Coke Zero is on offer somewhere, I’ll give up and go live in a shack. We mass buy whichever is on offer at the start of the month on payday.
- Fresh Meat
One week it’s chicken, next week it’s pork, if you’re lucky it’s some sort of fish or even red meet. Buy bulk and freeze it until you want it. Invest in some small plastic freezer bags, divide up your meat and freeze it. Admittedly this is difficult if you don’t have a large freezer, but if you do have one, it’s worth doing.
- Dried Pasta
Once in a while it’s cheaper to buy a huge sack rather than the smaller ones. Sainsbury’s run some stupid offers sometimes, like £3.30 for a sack or £3 for two sacks. Yes, that’s right, it’s not a misprint.
Again, the sacks offer. Buy in bulk and store it. It’s not going to go off, so get it when it’s cheap and keep it for those days when you’ve run out of money.*[Got something to say? Submit to Project Shandy]*