Hey readers, I know it has been a super long time since my last post. I have been adjusting to life in the real world now that I have a job and not as much free time anymore but I feel like I am about to get back into the swing of things. Makers meadow is attending a craft fair this Saturday 21st and I invite you to come join us for a peruse and a shop if you can make it to sheffield. There will be lots of other craft stalls from independent creators throughout sheffield and I am really looking forward to it. Stop off and say hi if your come by.
I am really enjoying keeping a wishlist on a regular basis. There are so many things that I would love to have but can’t ( just yet) normally because of lack of funds and then there are also items I want which I want to get to replace something I already have ( but obviously I wouldn’t throw something away before it needed to be, that would be wasteful) I find it great to have an idealistic wishlist as it allows me to think about what I really need, what I really want and what I really can live without. As always all these items come from an ethical back ground that I support whether eco friendly, from an independent business or fairly traded. Number 1 is a bit of a cheat as I have just bought it, It’s a blusher from BM Beauty that uses all natural ingredients. I don’t use a lot of make up so I think it’s pretty reasonable that I could slowly replace all my make up and I would be happy to with BM Beauty as I’ve found the blusher amazing. I have started to gain some temp work through an agency and would like to have some neater tops and jewellery for interviews and work plus I would like a backpack that’s good lucking but can fit more in it then my handbag so I can shop while out an about (bonus points for not using plastic bags) I would love this horseradish vodka from Godminster as I really enjoy a good bloody mary and want to make some really tasty spicey ones for friends and family the morning after the night before. Lastly I would love this piece of art
When I talk to people about independent and ethical shopping I often find it can be bizarre ground for a lot of shoppers as we all get use to shopping in a certain way and by nature we don’t like change. For me one of the biggest problems I find is that independent shops don’t label prices consistently or visibly enough and items aren’t always laid out how you would normally find them in your bog standard supermarket or on their website. For more people to be encouraged to shop with the little guys or the eco conscious these retailers need to make it easy for others to transition. A perfect example of this is the ethicalsuperstore.com
The online retailer specialises in a whole range of products from clothes to food, gardening to beauty all items of which are either fairly traded, organic, eco friendly, promote health and wellness, educational, locally produced or charitable. These are all worthy causes that I care about so it makes the perfect place for me to find exactly what I want without failing my principles. Each item page has a thorough description of the ethics behind its production or company, each of which you can find out more about on its own page and browse its other products. The clear layout of each page means you can find out the relevant info you might want and see customers reviews at the same time to inform you on its positives and negatives.
I love that the ethical superstore is set up just like a supermarket website as it is really easy to navigate and more often then not they will have the products your looking for as they have such an extensive range of items. They display prices visibly and even offer bulk buying discounts on most of their food products. They also have offers and sales just like any other store as well as their clearance sections for homewares and clothing making the shopping experience exactly the same as you would find it in any big box store except you can rely on the products being ethically sourced. My only criticism might be that I wish the free delivery order didn’t have to be as much as £50 but that is because I like a bargain. I think this is definitely the way ethical retailers should go to encourage more people to look at their wonderful products and get them to make the switch.
This is a quick bonus post as part of my thrifty and nifty food series. I love it when something I buy has more then one use and I will actually choose a lot of products for their dual use, a couch because it’s also a sofa bed for example. I apply this principle to food always as it’s great to get something for free and I hate waste. So I’ve made a little list of food items that I’ve found have something ‘free’ with them or have another use then you might think. Please add you own discovers in the comments!
Things you use to throw away
- Cauliflower leaves- brilliant roasted, strip the leaves from the stalks and toss with oil and other vegetables and roast in the oven, they come out lovely and crispy
- Banana Skins- These do wonders for plants (psss its the potassium) although you should always try compost, banana skins can be chucked straight on struggling plant. place it around it’s trunk and as it degrades it will release all of its lovely nutrients
- Vegetable Peelings- Most of us cut off the outer layer of our root vegetables and chuck them hopefully in the compost but you can use them to make stock. They also make great crisps deep fried in a pan or electric fryer, they taste great and are a good way of using up the tougher outer skins
- Broccoli stalks- Cut off a layer from the main stalk as it can be a bit tough and then dice the rest of the stock and use in soups or pies as a normal piece of veg.
- Pumpkins and Squash seeds- Wash the seeds and get all the pulp off them, bake in a warm own for 10 mins until golden brown, toast with chilli flakes and salt for a tasty health snack. Make sure to spread them out on a baking tray so they all cook evenly
- Marmite- When you can eck out any more marmite for your toast and next time you make a meaty stock fill the jar with hot water, swish around with the lid on and you’ll get all that tasty flavour for your stock.
- Vinegars and Oils- If you ever get jars of food marinated in vinegar reserve the liquid for salad dressings and any marinating Oil is great for cooking as it’s already got lots of flavour in it.
- Spring onions- I have never bought elastic bands because I always get two every time I buy spring onions.
- Produce Netting- Citruses, onions and garlic always come in those horrible plastic netting bags, collect a few and stuff them into one small one to create a free pan scourer
- Jars and bottles- A classic bit of recycling, use your old jars to make preserves and your bottles to make presents like flavoured alcoholic drinks or chilli and garlic oil, my favourite.
Please add your free finds in the comments
As with last week I am not actually going to tell you what to eat as that is completely up to you but I am going to show you the methods I use to create a cost effective menu each week and stick within my budget. The kitchen for me is a great place to be, I love cooking and enjoy the whole process of making a delicious meal. It is definitely relaxing for impatient me as it is something productive with a instant tasty end result. Cooking and eating on a budget is definitely easier when you love it.
- Double Ingredients or even triple- If you know you can get a large bag of carrots for only 79p (aldi) plan several meals that include carrots as a main ingredient. I would think to do a carrot and lentil soup, carrot burgers and the rest in a roast veg medley (I love that word) Bulk buy deals are often wasteful as you don’t use it in time but if you plan your meals around that one bulk item it can really save you money
- Make too much- Seems contradictory right? not if you use that extra food in your lunch the next day rather then chuck it in the bin. Last night I made roast veg medley :D, bulgur wheat and veggie gravy, I made extra bulgur wheat and mixed it with leftover fish, some cannellini beans and salad veg with a quick dressing tossed over it for H’s lunch the next day. Simple
- Recipes- You don’t have to own a huge collection of cook books to find recipes, if you have one good cook book that’s a start, but the internet, magazines and family and friend’s recipes can all be used to inspire you. If you look at more ways to cook and different dishes you will be able to create more varied and interesting meals.
- Invent and Swap- Sticking to some recipes is essential especially baking ones but most savoury meals can be changed no end of times to create new and exciting flavours. If a recipes calls for fresh parsley but you’ve only got dried mint, use that in place of it. If it says cauliflower and stilton, try cheddar and cabbage instead. Get the picture. Experiment with what you’ve got because it will create something tasty and you won’t be a slave to recipes or what isn’t in your fridge.
- Go Veggie- As I said in part 1, the main reason I believe my food bill is lower then most is that we eat a mainly vegetarian diet. I do love meat and fish but it find it too expensive especially organic and free range that I would rather buy so I stick to veg instead and don’t miss meat just because I don’t have it everyday. Saying that if you still want to include meat in some of your meals go for big flavour meats that only need a little adding to a dish like Chorizo and smoked bacon, or only buy your meat and fish that is on offer that week. Meat free is the way to go but I know it’s not for everyone.
I hope these tips have helped you think about your food shopping in a different way and hopefully you’ll be able to start saving money on your shop. This is the end of my Thrifty and Nifty Series but next week there will be one more as a bonus! I also wanted to point out that I myself have several cookbooks but I return to the same two or three again and again. Once you find a author/chef you love and one that suggest inventive cooking then you’ll only need that one for inspiration.
Obviously I am not going to tell you what exactly to buy as it depends on your diet, likes and dislikes but I am going to share with you my tips to create a well stocked kitchen which will mean you can make a meal any night and will cost you pennies. A lot of TV chef often talk about having a well stocked larder but this makes people think they have to run out to the supermarket and buy every thing all in one go. That would be silly. So here are my quick tips to build your supplies and a little description of what’s in my pantry/larder/cupboard.
- Plan and Prepare– This takes us back to the first thrifty nifty tutorial. Look in your cupboards to see what staples and dried goods you have left over to make sure you don’t buy something you already have.
- Little by little-Once you know what you have, you must buy what you need. I buy at least three items for my cupboard every week, more if I have more money. When I say I buy three items I really mean I buy one item off my three different lists, which are:
- Staples– These are the grains and cereals like pasta, rice, lentils, beans, flours, oats, dried fruit and nuts
- Flavours– These include condiments, herbs and spices and stocks
- Tinned– This is for the basic tinned foods every kitchen needs, chopped tomatoes, baked beans, other canned beans, fish.
- Preferences– Don’t buy food you or the family don’t like, seems obvious but people throw away a lot of food. I like to be healthy and try vegetables I don’t like in an attempt to condition my brain into liking them (successfully done it with courgettes, aubergines, tomatoes and only green peppers so far) but when you have little money it’s a bad idea and you will end up wasting food.
- Aim for fully stocked– Decide on what you want your finished collection to look like and aim to get there and then start replacing items again. This list at Love Food Hate Waste is pretty good but there is lots more you can add to vary your diet
Currently in my cupboard I have basmati rice, paella rice, yellow split peas, soup mix, oats, plain flour, pasta shapes, spaghetti, bulgar wheat, an array of nuts, and sultanas which I bought this week for some salads. In the flavour department I have two spice/herb racks that were bought for me as presents so I try keep the jars topped up when each runs out. I have basil, dill, oregano, thyme, mint for herbs (need more parsley). For the spices I have black pepper, 5 spice mix, cinnamon, cloves, curry powder, chilli powder, cumin, black cumin, paprika, star anise, nutmeg and cardamom (need turmeric). I also have a few vinegars; red and balsamic, oils; olive, sunflower and rapeseed, and sauces, soy, fish and good old Hendersons relish. I always have a couple of cans of beans, normally baked, kidney and cannellini and bulk buy chopped tomatoes.This week I bought English mustard and I am getting a FREE organic mayonnaise in my next veg box, ACE! Next week I am going to get some more porridge oats and white wine vinegar. If you do it slowly it doesn’t cost you a bomb and you’ll soon have a larder which is easy to whip up a meal with.
Last week I wrote about all the different places you could possibly do your food shopping but I know that for many people they want to or need to still shop at a supermarket. So for todays post I am going to give you my hints and tips for how to shop when you go to the supermarket. These shops are designed to make you spend, spend, spend so you have to have your wits about you when you visit a store or you may come away blowing your budget on one too many BOGOF offers. A lot of these tips can also be applied to other places too.
- Stick to the List– First and foremost this is the number one tip! After planning your meals you should have a list of ingredients you need to buy so simply just buy those items and you won’t spend on items you don’t need. Seems obvious but harder then you think. We all impulse buy.
- Ignore the aisles– this is similar to the first tip, if you know what you want just go straight to the areas and aisles where you will find those items. If you wander up and down the aisles as the supermarkets have laid them out, you are more likely to buy things not on your list.
- Ignore the Offers– Most BOGOF and sale offers are for processed, high fat, high salt, high sugar items. Supermarkets have been heavily criticised for providing these products at a much cheaper price then healthier alternatives. On top of that, any BOGOF items on the fruit and veg are often a waste as you will not be able to get through all that produce before it goes manky and therefore waste food and money.
- But not all of them– Some times you can find really good offers and the best ones are normally on dried or tinned staples. You won’t waste these items as they keep for a long time and they are items that you will actually use.This is the only time when I deviate from a list as these offers are too good to avoid.
- Know your weight– Learn to look at weights on packaging and on price labels. Sometimes two similar items might be different prices but you will realise one might have more in it. You need to decide is it better value to spend a bit more on more product or whether the cheaper one is better to buy.
- Read the small print– Many people shy away from the basic food ranges but always compare that product with the standard and luxury range and you may find there is not a lot of difference to what goes in it. This can often be said about pre made products where the percentage of ingredients can vary only by a few percent. Look at the ingredients on the package but also the nutritional information as it can indicate the quality of an item. For example, supermarket own brands of cordial have the same percent of fresh juice as your premium product such as robinson. Teach yourself out of thinking that expensive and special branding means better quality.
- Use a basket– I originally started using a shopping basket because when you shop at Aldi they won’t let you pack your items away, they chuck it at you as fast as they possibly can to get it in the trolley (I once was winded by a cabbage that was rolled into my chest! no apology either) and then make you pack it away from the till but if you use baskets they make you put them away at the beginning of the check out so you get to pack it as you pay. Anyway… using a basket makes you think about what your putting in it as it gets heavier and heavier and it also limits that amount of items you can actually buy.
- Don’t shop when hungry– This is pretty standard but very important. You will buy way to much and buy stuff that you can instantly snack on as soon as your out of the store.
So there we have it, shop smart to save pounds and think about what your doing when you go to the shops, don’t just walk around it like your a zombie!
Carrying on with the thrifty and nifty series this week’s topic is where to shop for the cheapest food, but remember cheap does not mean nasty! I however will not be telling you where you should shop but what the options are. There are so many factors for people, other then money of course, when it comes to where the most viable place to shop will be for them. The area you live in really influences it. Though cities have lots of options , in rural areas and small towns there is less choice but on the other hand you may have more access to fresh, local produce if you’re living in the countryside. What your diet is and what you want to buy can also steer you towards certain shops; if your veggie or vegan you’d probably rather shop where fresh produce is the focus, if I want risotto rice I know I can’t buy it from Aldi but can get it at ASDA. Lastly, there are your ethics and principles. Now I understand that for some people they couldn’t care less where their food comes from as long as it’s good quality and the right price but for me it actually is an extremely important part of my life and influences how I shop.
I’m going to do a quick run down of what the options are and a few good and bad points for each. Though some people might think this post silly, I think a lot of people genuinely don’t know you can shop somewhere other then supermarkets.
- Supermarkets – so let’s start with the obvious. Most people have access to at least one or two supermarkets in their local area. They’re convenient, normally have a good range of foods and are really cheap for certain things. But….they encourage you to buy more than you need, they don’t pay their producers decent wages, they have a monopoly across the country.
- Markets – Really cheap produce, support local community. But… There are normally only in city centre or large towns, limited food stuffs.
- Farmers’ Markets – good quality food, supports local farmers and producers. But… tend to be quite expensive, limited range of food, normally only in rural areas and occasionally pop up in city centres.
- Local independent shops– Butcher, Baker, Grocer. Very cheap, good quality food, support local community. But… limited food stuffs e.g. dried & canned staples, they are a disappearing breed
- Discount small supermarkets – places like Fulton Foods, Home Bargains, Poundland. Really cheap for certain things, stuff like baked beans and Fray Bentos Pies. But… only really sell convenience food, god knows what is in their meat products.
- Health Food stores – good quality food, big variety of unusual ingredients, cheap for bulk dried goods But… other then dried good products tend to be expensive, not very common.
- World food stores – Asian, Eastern European. Quite cheap, big mix of interesting foods But…Only in certain areas and you might not like that type of diet, I have seen pig uterus for sale in a Chinese supermarket before, definitely not my thing.
- Online Shopping – Though supermarkets have their own online shops, there are lots of independent ones as well, normally with a more ethical or eco slant. Wide range of products, delivered straight to your door But… normally no info on nutritional value, hassle of delivery- if not in, things getting broken, items get missed out.
- Veg boxes – Normally an online thing but you can call up places as well. Organic, fresh produce, supports farmers and producers But… Quite expensive, limited range of staple food
- Wholesalers – If you have a business/borrow a friend’s card. Really cheap way of buying your staples in bulk. But… You have to spend more up front, No fresh produce normally.
Personally, I probably use a mixture of all of the above depending on what I want and where I am. At the moment, me and H buy our veg from Abel & Cole in a weekly veg box – it is pricey but it makes me feel good buying organic and supporting farmers, plus when it’s delivered it feels like a present every week! We use the wholesalers that the pub uses to get big packs of tinned food like chopped tomatoes and oil. Our other food comes from Aldi, which I don’t like that much as it is a supermarket but it is very cheap, really good quality and you can find a few unusual and exciting things to buy. I also occasionally visit world food stores to stock up on mainly Asian ingredients which I love and the Sheffield Castle Market when I’m looking for fresh fish and meat.
I hope this helps people out there that don’t know there are many more places to shop than Tesco, ASDA, Morrison’s and Sainsbury’s (The big 4). If you look in other places you can find some brilliant deals and often better quality food. As I have discussed, it may also be better to shop more with your conscience as you can find bargains and better goods often in the same place.
My blog over the past year has mainly been dedicated to green issues, Independent shopping and DIY and the underlying theme of these topics along with my support for small businesses and my belief in a greener life is general thrifty living. As I have now left my job at the pub and are currently unemployed I can see the focus of my posts shifting towards a more frugal stance paired with eco and independent living rather then the other way around.
Other then standard household bills, rent, tax etc the main thing you need and should spend your money on is food. For me it is the most important ‘thing’ in life, (along with beer possibly) and I refuse to scrimp on having delicious meals. I also know my food bill is the main way that I can cut my expenses but that doesn’t mean I have to rely on processed food that supermarkets discount to cheaper then fresh fruit and vegetable. The average food bill in Britain a week is £76 (I presume this is for 2 adults 2 children, and this figure is from a year ago as couldn’t find any recent figures online, so probably has gone up to at least £80 if not more). I would say that the average food bill for 2 adults must be around the £40- £50 mark. At the moment me and H need to get our food bill to about £20-£25 a week and its definitely doable without eating just pasta and toast, so here’s how.`
The first thing to do is prepare before you do any shopping, so here is my quick bullet pointed guide to how I plan our meals and decide what we need to buy for the week.
- Open your cupboard and see what you’ve got, firstly to make sure you don’t buy something you already have and secondly because you might be able to make a meal out of something already.
- Check your fridge and see what fresh ingredients you have left. Either a) make something from your remaining cupboard and fridge ingredients b) make sure your next few days meals use the leftover fresh within them so you don’t waste food or money most importantly
- Create a meal plan. Keep your budget in mind, know if anyone in the house won’t be in one night, If people need lunches for work.
- Focus on food. The main way I reduce my bill is having non or little meat products so veg based meals is the way forward, use store cupboard staples in each meal (more on this later in the series but basically grains, pulses and flavourings) Aim to buy in each weekly shop one flavour item and one bulk staple (this will help you build up a good kitchen larder)
- Stick to your list– if you have a list you will focus on finding the items rather then looking at every single offer in a supermarket.
So that’s how I think about my shopping and the meals I will make for the next week, so I hope it helps you if your looking to reduce you’re food bill. I am going to carry on this as a series and next time look at where to shop when on a budget.
I recently haven’t done any shopping posts and I want to refresh them a little before I got back to posting them. I feel I got too obsessed with the look of them and create a cohesive board with simply colour was a sure fire way to include items I may not of whole heartedly loved. For my next shopping lists I am going to focus more on products that are great and fit for use as well as gorgeous and this starts with a list of products to help you move towards a greener life.
Its not always easy being green and sometimes you might feel you don’t know where to start when it comes to helping the environment out. You can’t simply change everything you do in your day to day or chuck out all your household goods and replace them with eco alternatives. I think I much better way to tackle environmental problems in your home is to take one step at a time. This green shopping list shows you normal everyday items but the eco alternative. Swap your usual product for one of these every week or month and eventually you will have transformed your home into a green haven. My favourite idea from this selection are the reusable paper towels by MamaMade which are wound up in a roll and have snap on poppers so you can rip off each section as you would traditional Kitchen roll. Just whack them in the wash after use and you’ll save money and the planet. Click on the photo to see the full list.