Mindful food shopping & home cooking

5/02/2020

Woman holding string shopping bag with groceries

Photo credit: Sylvie Tittel
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If you follow my Instagram stories you will know that I love cooking, especially so since we've been in lockdown. I find the process really soothing and a very 'in the moment' activity to do. It's hard to let your mind wander and your anxieties take hold when you're having to focus on chopping an onion or measuring out baking powder. I stick an audio book on or my favourite podcast, grab a glass of something (prosecco/g&t/rum & coke) and I have an hour or so to myself in the kitchen. Bonus is, at the end, you have something yummy to eat too.

And, as the true Virgo that I am, I also love to plan my cooking. I make a meal plan each week and follow a few simple steps to ensure that our waste is minimal and we stick to our monthly grocery budget. I hope you find the following tips useful. I hope they save you money, reduce your waste and your stress at the supermarket. You can download my printable meal planner at the end of the post.

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1. Check your cupboards

If you're anything like me there are probably some weird and wonderful things in your cupboards? Ingredients for those 'healthy' brownies you planned to make. Left over polenta that you don't know what to do with. And sometimes not so weird things, like tins of lentils or dried noodles. Write them down. Then spend some time looking through your cookbooks to find something yummy to make. You can often check the index of a cook book for a particular ingredient. Flicking through my cook books is one of my favourite things to do, but if you're short on time (or patience) turn to Google. If you have a lot of cook books I've used the website Eat Your Books to do the searching for me. It's a great website for creating your own recipe index with the cook books you own. You'll never waste ingredients again!

2. Check your fridge & freezer

An obvious one, but a step I've not bothered with in the past. Write down any items that need using up and again find some recipes to include them in. One thing I do with the fridge before a big shop is move the ingredients that need using to a different shelf, or somewhere more visible so you don't forget about them.

3. Make a meal planner

I've created a meal planner which you are welcome to download at the end of this blog post. I don't regimentally plan our breakfast and dinner (lunch?) as we don't have anything that exiting. Homemade granola and beans on toast (sometimes with those dubious looking sausages in) are a staple in our house. I have included sections for you to do so though, should you wish. But I do plan our evening meals carefully. I cook a mixture of meals that are eaten all in the same evening, some that can be frozen for meals later in the week or I roast a big chicken that we then use in the next evening's meal. I also try and bake some snacks each week and list these too. I didn't quite appreciate how much Ben ate until he started working from home. He literally doesn't stop eating.

4. Keep a list

Keep a rolling list of the things you run out of. I do this on my phone. As soon as I know we've run out of something I add it to my list. The worst thing you can do for your bank balance and your stress levels is to rock up to the supermarket not armed with a list. And there's nothing more frustrating than forgetting the one thing you actually needed. To reduce your supermarket shopping stress even further, organise your list before you go. Split your list into fruit & veg, fridge section, freezer section, dried & tinned goods, treats, drink. Again I keep a list on my phone so this is easy enough to do, but if you enjoy the process of writing out a list then create your sections before starting.

5. Always have the staples in

If this lockdown has taught us anything, it's probably the value of dried and tinned goods and how lucky we are if we own a big freezer. I generally always keep a few long lasting essentials in my pantry (yes I have a pantry, no it's not as posh as it sounds), fridge or freezer. One of my favourite websites for frugal cooking right now is Lavender & Lovage, her store cupboard cowboy pie recipe includes a fantastic list of store cupboard essentials worth keeping in stock. If you have a day where you can't be bothered to make something fancy, or you know, we have a global pandemic that means we can't leave the house (imagine!), you can't go too wrong if you've got these things handy. But my top tip if you have a freezer - freeze your bread and milk. You can toast bread straight from frozen and the one thing I couldn't go without is probably tea, so grab a spare box of tea bags and freeze an emergency bottle of milk.

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If you want to get into home cooking but are not sure where to start, my top tip is to start simple and choose a recipe with minimal ingredients. Scones are great if you want to get into baking. I use this recipe from BBC Good Food all the time. You can't beat a home made spag bol and this recipe is similar to how I cook mine, minus the red wine and the bacon, although that does sound amazing! And if you want to go really simple I highly recommend the Roasting Tin* books. In terms of equipment, being able to cook a whole meal in a roasting tin is pretty much as minimal as it gets, I use both The Roasting Tin* and The Green Roasting Tin* all the time.

And lastly, enjoy your cooking. You're providing for and nourishing yourself and your family, yes, even if you're serving up beans and dubious sausages on toast. So if it takes you 10 minutes to russle up or two hours of stirring, chopping, whisking and roasting, enjoy it. Take time to simply breath deeply if that's all you can manage. Listen to that audiobook or podcast while you do it. And when it comes to the eating, sit together, even if it's on the sofa (we don't have a dining table at the moment) and talk. If you're eating alone, perhaps eat at a window, watch the world go by and have a sip of wine. When we finally sort our kitchen out and get that dining table, we'll eat together around it, sharing the food that I've made. Perhaps even with a little helping hand from Robin.

Here is the link to download my printable weekly meal planner. I make a list of snacks we have for the week, a list of things I need to use up and a list of things I need to buy. The download is free, but if you would like to shout me a coffee you can do so using the link below. Your support is very much appreciated, especially at this current time.

Download Meal Planner

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