How to survive on one supermarket trip per week, spend less and waste less
If you’re going to pick one thing out of the Coronavirus Pandemic that’s affecting all of us in some way, it’s got to be food. The way we shop for, cook and eat food has completely changed in the past month; we’re not eating out anymore since all our favourite restaurants and cafes have either closed or shifted to delivery only, we’re all heading to the supermarket far less (or maybe even not at all), and we’re cooking from scratch more than ever before. We’re also wasting a lot more food. After all the panic buying a couple of weeks ago – as people rushed to stock their fridges and kitchen cupboards ahead of lockdown – local councils and collection crews have seen up to a 30% increase in food waste (everything, from unopened packs of chicken to bread and speckled bananas). That’s bonkers! Especially considering a lot of us are still struggling to get basic items like eggs, flour and pasta in our local supermarkets.
While most of us are familiar with the process of a weekly shop – we’re probably not used to not being able to “pop back” to the supermarket for a couple of extras or fresh items that we’ve forgotten… or a pack of jam doughnuts on a whim (*sigh* the struggle is real). Lockdown food shopping and cooking for many of us (including all the extra food needed for working from home lunches) is a tricky thing to get your head around – and if you’ve never tried it before, then I really can’t recommend Meal Planning enough.
I started Meal Planning myself a couple of years ago when I suddenly realised how much money I was spending on food every week, and how much of that food I was throwing out. I was Queen of the Soggy Cucumbers and half-eaten Sour Cream; I’d head to the supermarket three times a week without a plan and then I’d usually come home with stuff that I already had in the fridge anyway. Enough was enough; I was sick of coming up with meals last minute, I was sick of living in the supermarket and I was sick of throwing out food (quite literally once or twice – rotten potatoes are seriously janky, yo). So I started meal planning and it’s honestly been a game changer – I’m spending far less time and money in the supermarket (I go once a week and spend roughly the same amount every time), and I’m wasting far less food because every item is planned out. It’s a system that works for me every week of the year, but it’s suited even better to Lockdown conditions when you’re only supposed to head to the supermarket once a week. If you’ve planned exactly what you’re going to eat every day of the week ahead, it means a quick and seamless supermarket trip, fuss free meal times and zero food waste.
If you want to give it a go yourself then I wrote a whole post about How to Start Meal Planning, but for Six Lockdown Meal Planning Tips to get you started, just hit scroll. 🙂
Write a Supermarket-Friendly List
Right now I’m shopping for two households, which has the potential to make for very long, very painful supermarket sessions. To make the process as quick and as painless as possible I have to pretty much attack it like a full on military operation – and writing a Supermarket Friendly Shopping List is top of the game plan. I want to be able to breeze through the supermarket, hitting all the aisles individually – and only once.
- Target Use by Date: When I sit down to write my weekly shopping list, the very first thing I write right at the top – before I even get to adding milk or eggs – is what the date is going to be in seven days time. I want to be able to hunt out the best possible use by date on the products I add to my trolley to make sure nothing goes off during the week ahead – meaning no desperate follow-up dashes to the supermarket, and no wasted food.
- Location List: Have you ever shopped at an unfamiliar supermarket and had a meltdown in one of the aisles because, “Argh! Everything’s in a different place!!!”? Yeah, same. You probably know your usual supermarket like the back of your hand – you’ll know exactly where to find everything, from cheese to ground cinnamon – as well as how you usually move from aisle to aisle. So write a list with that in mind! I write mine in the order I shop – that way I don’t have to ping pong back and forth from aisle to aisle.
Double-up to Leave Plenty of Leftovers for Lunches
The current lock-down situation is made for those who cook from scratch. If that’s you, then you’ve probably got an arsenal of home cooked recipes up your sleeve and are well-rehearsed in double-ing up meals to serve you for leftovers and lunches throughout the week. Slipping in some easy, from scratch meals into your weekly meal plan is the way to go, now more than ever. For a start, it’s cheaper, and often healthier – but also, now that we’re all working from home we’re hitting up the home fridge at lunch time as well as dinner time, so having some leftovers going spare goes a long way. Chilli, Pasta and Curry all make for brilliant leftovers – especially vegetarian versions – and some favourite “double-up” recipes in my personal arsenal include:
- Ultimate Veggie Chilli
- Easy Singapore Noodles
- Roasted Butternut Curry
- Chilli Mac and Cheese
- Easy Leek and Mushroom Risotto
- Easy Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry
Support Your Local Cafes and Restaurants by Ordering In
Before Coronavirus there were some weeks where I’d factor in a night for a Takeaway or a Meal Out. Obviously a trip to my local pub for a curry (I LOVE a pub curry, mate) or to a restaurant in town is now off limits for the forseeable – but a takeaway is still most definitely an option. Lots of our much loved local businesses are still slogging on through these strange times by offering delivery options – so why not support them, give yourself the night off from cooking and order something in?
(*If you live in Cardiff then this brilliant website has up to date information on local restaurants and businesses that are currently delivering food in and around the city.)
Factor in a “Dog’s Dinner” Dish for Day Seven
Dog’s Dinner, Hodge Podge, whatever you like to call it – everyone’s got a recipe for using up any leftover veg and meat hanging around in their fridge. I like to factor one in to my weekly meal plan for day seven (the day before I start over and head to the supermarket again), just to clear out my fridge and cut down on food waste. I’ve usually got at least a pepper, some mushrooms, tomatoes and some salad leaves left – and so my absolute favourite Dog’s Dinner dish to use them all up is Halloumi Hash. Halloumi freezes really well (and thaws out quickly) so I’ve always got a handful of blocks at the bottom of the freezer – and then I just fry it up with some potatoes (even better if I’ve got a few left over from a roast), leftover veg, paprika and olive oil. To finish it off, I top it with either a fried or a poached egg. Yum!
Use Leftover Roast Meat Strategically
If you’re a big fan of a good old fashioned roast dinner – or just roasted meat in general – then start working it into your weekly meal plan to save from buying extra meat and to give your midweek meals an easy glow-up. Roasted meats can be reheated safely once (some say twice, but after having severe food poisoning once myself I’d personally rather not risk it!) within three days of first cooking them. I like to use leftover roast chicken to make curries and jazz up stir fries and noodle dishes, and leftover pork roast is absolutely perfect to throw into Ramen and Pho.
Keep your Pantry and Freezer Stocked with Versatile Ingredients
Obviously don’t start panic-buying an apocalypse-ready trolley-full of tins and freezer food (most supermarkets are restricting shoppers to three items per person now anyway) – but strategically picking up some long-lasting food items and ingredients that can be used to create easy meals from scratch makes weekly meals so much easier – even out of a lockdown situation. I’m really lucky, I’ve got a makeshift pantry of shelves out in the garage where I store up tins of beans, chick peas, tinned tomatoes, chutneys, rice and pasta – all items that can be used to make a quick meal in a pinch. I also keep my freezer stocked with chicken dippers (try my Cheat’s Mango Chicken, and my Honey Sesame Chicken – both made using chicken dippers!), Halloumi (great in stir fries and curries instead of meat), as well as lots of frozen vegetables and herbs. My kitchen cupboards are also stocked up with spices, sauces and meal kits (I LOVE the Blue Dragon ones) – so if I can’t make it to the supermarket for my weekly shop and have to hang on a few more days – then I’ve got plenty to make something out of nothing.
Let me know your favourite Dog’s Dinner/Hodge Podge recipes below – I could use a few new ones to try! Have a great week! ❤︎