I like food, but I'm not any kind of gourmet chef. I'm not even a particularly good cook. I'm enthusiastic though, and capable of knocking together an edible meal from whatever's at hand, which comes in handy. Recently we've fallen into bad habits of buying a (supermarket) pizza on the way home from work, eating porridge for tea, and ordering a takeaway once a week - and these are all things I want to tackle this month.
Like many people I imagine, we fall into the trap of having cupboards full of food, but wailing 'we have nothing to eat!' What we mean, of course, is that we have nothing that we can stuff into our mouths right now without having to cook or prepare it in any way, but that's not the same as not having any food, so one of our tasks for Uber Frugal January is to inventory our food stash and make some inroads into, you know, eating it.
Our cupboards could be described as 'higgledy piggledy' at best (and I don't intend to sort them out any time soon), but this is what we currently have:
satsumas | onions | potatoes | garlic | carrots | parsnips | a few sprouts | mushrooms
Milk (not enough!) | natural yogurt | blue cheese | 8 eggs
In the freezer
green beans | mixed peppers | home made pizza dough | leftover rice | breadcrumbs | home made scone dough | six portions of home made soup | small amount of brie | grated cheddar
one tomato soup | one tomatoes | one baked beans
Pasta | long grain rice | arborio rice | egg noodles | spaghetti
porridge | red lentils | green lentils | yellow split peas | dried broth/barley mix | dried black eyed beans | self raising flour | plain flour | yeast | vegetable oil | sultanas | gravy granules | hot chocolate powder | tea bags (of course!) | coffee
2 packets reduced curry sauce | marmite | tomato puree | herbs, spices and condiments
Being organised is the key to frugal eating
The trick, of course, is to be more organised. While I've been off this week I've made soup for lunch, and put a portion of each of them in the freezer for work lunches next week.
We also made a meal plan for the first time this week, and went shopping with a list. We never do this, and it's been quite a relief to not have to think creatively about every meal - we have a list of meals and I know we have the ingredients for them all.
- Breakfast: porridge with sultanas
- Dinner: soup, omelette
- Tea: mushroom risotto | baked potato and dhal | broth and dumplings | sausage, mash and green beans | home made pizza | stir fry and rice | gardeners pie (I've been informed this is what you call the vegetarian version of shepherds pie but I'm not sure it's going to stick in this house!)
We do struggle with snacks, so I'm currently experimenting with biscuits and baking. If anyone knows a failsafe way not immediately eat every single biscuit you just baked please do let me know. This week I made those squirrel biscuits you see above (simple, cheap recipe here) and these surprisingly tasty chocolate biscuits, which were meant to be a present for my dad (after we ate his original Christmas present), but I'm not seeing him until tomorrow, so there may have to be some more experimental baking before then.
We're also experimenting with making our own popcorn, and I've discovered that it's a brilliant snack to take on a journey or for a day out. I did try just sprinkling spices (or parmesan) on it but I think it needs a little melted butter or oil first to help the flavours stick - just shake it all round in the bag. Some good flavouring selections in the comments of this post.
We do our main shopping at Aldi, and I was pleased to see this week that they are now the highest paying supermarket in the UK. They also sell a lot of British food, which I prefer to buy where possible. Smaller shopping trips tend to be in local convenience-style supermarkets, which are expensive (although they do reduce their fruit and veg at night so we sometimes snag a bargain). I would like to shop at the local greengrocers more this year though.
We usually spend roughly £120 a month for our weekly 'big' shop, and then another £80 or so buying bits and pieces on the way home from work. Not completely outrageous for two of us, I would like to get back to doing more of our own cooking, and since our meals tend to be based around lentils and beans, we could knock a bit off that total at least.
Our shopping this week cost just under £25, and we've topped up with milk twice since then (we drink a lot of tea). We'll probably shop again on Monday night, and in next week's meal plan we'll make a conscious effort to use some of those stored things that have been hanging around for a while.