*Disclaimer: your well and my well, may well be different!
In everyday normal, adult conversations I find myself talking about food a lot. Cooking, eating and sharing food is really important to me and I think about it a lot. Like 70% of time. Or more. But what is more important to me is the desire to engage with what I’m buying and what is going into my body and the bodies I am feeding. Since being married, Nick and I have begun a journey to be more ethically minded; attempting to make small, better changes to the produce and products we buy and to broaden our knowledge on what it actually means to live this way. Our personal definition of eating well is to AIM to eat produce that is natural, unprocessed, ethical, locally sourced, fairly traded, organic and free range. AIM has to be in capitals because we don’t always manage this! And I love lots of things that are definitely processed…..
As a by note, and for another blog, this journey has brought up lots of interesting conversations and discoveries. Do we really have to buy organic food or is it just another way to get more money out of us? Does buying local produce take away the need to buy free range/organic? What does fair trade actually mean? If we don’t buy free range meat does it mean the meat we eat has suffered gruesomely or does it just mean they got a bit more space to roam? If you haven’t already, it’s worth looking in to so you can decide how you feel about it.
So far on the journey, our shops compromise of:
- 80% organic produce overall
- 100% organic dairy products
- 100% free range meat
- 100% wild caught/organically farmed fish
- 100% fair trade where there is the option or we are buying oversees (not as easy as I thought – there aren’t that many fairly traded everyday items)
Our budget is £60 a week. This needs to include most breakfasts, lunches and dinners, Finn’s food and some household items like toilet paper, kitchen roll, nappies and washing up liquid. We also have a spare £60 a month for extras like wine (I wish I could fit this into an every week shop!), snacks and “hospitality” which will include friends/family coming over for meals and providing meals for new mums/friends in need. We don’t stick to exactly £60 a week; one week it might be £40 and another week it might be £80 but over the month it levels itself out.
So, onto how we do it at the minute subject to change, because we are all ever-changing!
1.) One monthly shop at Aldi
I have discovered that Aldi offer really reasonably priced British, free range and organic meat. Now I know it’s not our local butchers and in an ideal world we would buy everything from our little town and I would have a little woven basket to put all my items in for my walk home. But we live in London and believe it or not our local butchers and greengrocer appear to be extortionately priced. So that is for another chapter of our lives.
We don’t have an Aldi near us so I do one shop once a month and freeze any meat I buy. I always buy a whole chicken and I always buy some thighs and drumsticks (and then as a labour of love remove the skin and bones for Nick!) This usually comes to about £20-£40 and I will adjust the weekly shop budget to reflect this.
2.) Weekly shopping online
This has made a significance difference to sticking to a weekly budget. We use Ocado, pay £1.99 a month for anytime delivery and we both have the app on our phone. The app allows us to add and delete items at any time, with a visual representation of each product and a handy running total. The app also features recipes, gives coupons and has a never ending supply of offers. They have a huge range of organic, fair trade and free range produce and customers can leave reviews, which I have found are very accurate.
I often get asked “aren’t Ocado/Waitrose much more expensive than other supermarkets?” In honestly, some products can be, especially fresh produce. However our food budget amount hasn’t changed from when we used to shop at Tesco, we just eat smarter. Ocado also do a price comparison with Tesco and give you a voucher if your shop would have been cheaper there.
3.) Meal planning
I meal plan a week in advance and I do it based on what is on offer on the app and whats in the freezer. I aim for at least 2 meals to be vegetarian. I would say at this point that it can be time-consuming, but in a nice way – because of the app I can start or stop the shop whenever I have some spare time and I can add things to it if plans change. I really enjoy it and it pushes me to try at least one new recipe a week. As Nick is an avid meat lover and I had to persuade him to let me do veggie meals, I try to be creative. I tend to think about the meals over the course of a few days and then submit a final order on a Friday, ready for delivery on a Sunday.
4.) Only buying for the week
I very rarely bulk buy. What we buy in a weekly shop is what we eat. We have two small food cupboards in our kitchen that are not full and a lot emptier at the end of each week. The idea behind this is to not hoard and to use everything we have. It also means we save money because we don’t buy random things for “just in case”. The items I do always keep in stock however are: herbs/spices, onions, potatoes, one tin of canned tomatoes, cheese and frozen peas – I figure you can do anything with those if you need to!
5.) Ignoring use by dates
Now I’m not stupid. I wouldn’t put my family (or friends!) at risk and I stick to the dates for meat. But let’s be honest, use by dates can be pants for things like fruit and veg! Especially if you own a decent fridge. So instead I go by sight and smell and common sense. I check the fridge at the end of the week and if there’s a packet of beans I haven’t used still in the fridge and they look good, I’ll incorporate them in to the next week’s set of meals.
6.) Sticking to portions
I’m a bit of a stickler for portion sizes. When we were first married we would quite happily share a tuna pasta bake intended for 4 people plus a garlic baguette. Neither of us benefited from over indulging. Now we have realistic portion sizes and we know beforehand whether there will be leftovers and these are then saved for another meal. A tuna pasta bake and a garlic baguette will now do us 2 meals each!
7.) Using everything
Covered a little bit by number 4 and 5, I generally ensure everything is used up rather than throwing things away. Bits of left over veg are put into soups or cooked and blended to make a pasta sauce for Finn. Overripe bananas are made into pancakes at the weekend or frozen for ice-cream. The chicken carcass is made into stock and then frozen. Slightly stale crumpets are soaked in egg and made into eggy bread.
8.) Making use of the freezer
My freezer is my life saver. It saves me throwing away so much stuff and its perfect for if our plans go out the window and we need to grab something differently. I freeze most of my fresh meat in advance and defrost in the fridge the day before I need it. I bulk make meals for Finn and bag up leftover shredded chicken and stock sauces. I also keep frozen vegetables, fish fillets/fish fingers, chips/potato wedges, ginger, garlic and our bread in there. Theres often a meal in there like a home-made shepherds pie/chilli in case one of us or both of us need an emergency meal.
I hope this has been helpful; if you have any questions (or tips!) let me know – I’d love the food chat!