I love grocery shopping. I love walking around the shop picking things up and day dreaming about all the delicious things that extra jar of chutney could be put in, disregarding the fact that I already had three sitting in my fridge. The problem for me used to be that if I picked something up it almost always went in my trolley, regardless of how useful the forty-fifth can of chickpeas or that yummy chutney destined to hibernation in my pantry would be.
Then we moved to the farm and having a very long drive to the shops eventually forced me to look over my shopping habits. I needed to plan my shopping as I couldn’t just pop down to the store if I forgot something. As I grow older I’m also more aware of the extreme food waste we all produce, and I’m keen to reduce it.
Doing twice-monthly shops doesn’t only save money; it saves time and can provide you and your family with more time together, as well as an abundance of delicious food and less sad veggies sitting in your fridge drawer.
If you are keen on cutting down on spending and being a more sustainable shopper we’ve collected a few tips to help you along the way!
Before starting, figure out how much food you usually need for two weeks.
Take the time to write down for a week how much you shop and note how much of it you actually used. This is not only a good way to see where you’re getting unnecessary expenses; it’s also a good way to see where your food waste might come from.
If you always buy an eggplant when you go for your grocery shop but it then just gets to sit there in the fridge and looking more and more wrinkly until you throw it out – not buying it is a good start (and that comes from someone who ALWAYS used to do that until I found the glorious Ottolenghi’s egg plant recipes!).
Do your shopping online
This not only saves valuable time it’s also a great way to keep control of your spending. You cannot only find the best deals on things like your favourite pasta or chocolate, you can also review your purchases and take away unnecessary items before you process your order. Saving both money and a pantry full of things you’re not likely to use.
Online shops often offer to recycle for you or if you want to return the bags the groceries arrived in – make sure you do it. Because we are all about minimising plastic use, as you hopefully know! If not, here is a Beginner’s guide to #saynotoplastic.
Write comprehensive lists
My mother in law used to be the ultimate twice-a-month shopper, much thanks to her lists. When we moved to the farm she told me to always have a piece of paper on the fridge where you could write up all the grocery item (or dishwasher tablets or toilet paper which I find are so easy to forget to buy).
Having that list running makes it easy when I sit down to do my online order, as I don’t have to rummage around the pantry trying to see what I need to stock up on. But a note on this, also make sure that when you do your order online you see what’s in season* and don’t be afraid to change things around too.
Buying items in season is a more sustainable way of shopping. Preferably choosing a local produce too. Check the item description and see where the items is made! More on how to shop local produce further down.
Do meal plans for the week
Made a Bolognese on the Monday? Make an extra big pot to allow for some leftover mince sauce. It will last a day or two in the fridge so why not add a heap of mushrooms and veggies to it and make lasagna on the Wednesday? Making a meal plan and taking into account what you might have as leftovers and help make your shopping last a little longer, without skimping one the yummy meals. Also buying versatile items is key (such as veggies which can be used for many different meals), that way you can change your meal plan around depending what you feel like cooking.
Use up pantry and freezer items
I find, and I think I’m not alone in this, that it’s incredibly easy to just keep on buying things like tinned tomatoes and chickpeas. That after a few months ends up collecting dust in the pantry, as I keep on buying more and more of the basic stuff I think I need – but never use.
Have a proper look in your pantry and meal plan accordingly. During seeding on the farm I had three grown men to feed every night for dinner and instead of trying to always buy new groceries I looked what I already had and made dinners from that.
*I used up the black beans with some rice and nachos.
*Corn and other veggies from the freezer and put in wraps to make burritos – with a bit of salsa I had bought ages ago it made a really yummy meal.
*I made bean and mince pasta with tomato sauce.
*I used up that “old” block of chocolate to make a chocolate cream to go between malt o milk cookies which seems to be as staple in every respectable farm house pantry.
It wasn’t fancy food but it used up a tremendous amount of pantry items and kept the hard working farmers happy. To put it simply, see what you already have and make a meal out of that, often great recipes will come out of it!
Get your fresh veggies once a week if needed, and try to do so from a Farmer’s Market
This is a great idea if you, like me, end up chomping through a fair bit of fresh stuff each week. Shopping your pantry and freezer items in the grocery shop/online and then buying your fresh veggies from local farmers is a great way to keep your shopping more sustainable and environmentally friendly. It’s also a lovely family outing, walking around the market together. Perfect for kiddies and a relaxing way to start a weekend day!
A fun way to encourage the little ones to eat more veggies: Make them choose a new vegetable each time you’re at the market. Which you’ll research a recipe when you come home and cook together!
App it up!
There are a multitude of apps to help you with both grocery shopping and sustainability. Here are a two examples!
The Dirty Dozen is an app that highlights the foods lowest and highest in pesticides and where it’s more important to try and find organic alternatives. On the “Dirty Dozen” list are fruits like apples and grapes, but also spinach and on the “Clean 15’” one are corn and asparagus, as well as cantaloupe.
Love your leftovers might not sound all that fancy but it’s a great idea to try and help you to create recipes from things like leftover pasta or brown bananas. It’s full of tips and tricks to help you limit food waste, something we all should strive for!
Don’t let your twice-monthly shop take away from the fun of grocery shopping or cooking
As with everything if you put extreme pressure on yourself and get militant about not entering a grocery shop unless two weeks have passed, then you’re likely to fall out of love with the idea of shopping more sustainable and economically friendly.
If you run out of apples and want some, go and get them (unless you live in the middle of nowhere and can’t, like yours truly)! And if you just feel like something special, go and get that too but maybe just stay away from buying ten jars of canned chickpeas just because they are on special. If you really need them you can put them on your list and get them later. The chickpeas won’t run away, I promise.
A Tribe Called Life