Sunday, 28 September 2008

Credit Crunch-Time

There's no escaping it. Food prices, energy prices, fuel prices, the price of everything is rising faster than I can keep up with and it show no sign of stopping soon. With that in mind, and the fact that I only work part-time because of my health (but don't qualify for DLA or working tax credits), I have made some changes to my food shopping.

The Love Food Hate Waste campaign has made me look at what we throw out, and it shocked me. If I go shopping with a meal-plan in mind, then am too ill to cook some nights then produce goes off and I chuck it. I do put it in the compost bin, but that doesn't bring back the money I've spent in the first place. So, I now buy smaller quantities of fruit and veg, I'd rather have to go back to the supermarket later in the week than have to throw out another sprouting potato. As of this week I am having an organic veg box delivered once a fortnight. Anything I don't cook with will be prepared and frozen (I do solemnly swear). This should help cut down my trips to the shops and will prevent me from getting stuck in a rut, veg-wise. I worked out what I spend each week on fruit and vegetables and this should also work out cheaper AND all the produce is organic AND as much as possible is UK grown. Win-win, really.

Next, meat. It is the most expensive thing on the shopping list so I am using my local butcher, buying cheaper cuts of meat and seeking his advice on the best way to cook it. Of course, any bones are boiled up for stock which is frozen if necessary and leftovers are used. When I buy meat at the supermarket I head straight for the reduced section to see what bargains are there. I still buy British and, if available, free range, but this way I save money while I do it.

For a while now I've been freezing meals in tubs for the Husband, as he works away and stays at a flat when he's not here. Instead of going out for a kebab or fish and chips or pizza, he can stick something in the microwave and have a healthy, home cooked meal in minutes. It also means that we only have one food bill, except for minimal extras like bread and pasta (the Husband likes to fill up on gluten when I'm not around).

I'm making use of my slow-cooker. It uses the same energy as a light-bulb, apparently (regular, I assume, not energy-saving) and if I set it up and switch it on before I leave for work, then I have a hot meal waiting for me when I get home. Wonderful! One-pot dishes are fast becoming a favourite too. I'm only using one ring on the hob, saving money, and saving on the washing up, which must save water, surely?

Economy brands at supermarkets are on the shopping list now. Things like tinned tomatoes, butter, bacon, salmon, trout, pollack, prawns and natural yogurt are all just the same as the supermarket own brand, except slightly smaller or more irregularly shaped (or with bones and skin still on, in the case of the fish.. In many cases, it's just a plainer packaging that's the difference.

Of course rising prices make it more difficult to balance the books, but I maintain that it shouldn't prevent me from balancing my diet.

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