Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Background and tips

Important things:
Grocery lists
Having extra if possible
Having help
Comfort food

My plan: Shop once per month for essentials (spices, flour, yeast, tinned goods, oil, butter, etc.) and shop once or twice per week for fresh goods (fresh vegetables, fruit, bread, milk, eggs, etc.). Feed two people (plus guests occasionally) three healthy meals per day.

I cannot stress the importance of creating and having menus enough. In my mind, if you do not know what you want to cook or eat, how will you know what to buy at the store? Not having menus leads to compulsion buys, which must be avoided at nearly all costs. I say nearly because if I see something like fresh strawberries or meat at a ridiculously low price, I will buy some. Start off one week at a time for menus. Keep the meals that you and your family enjoy, remove the ones you don’t like. After a while, you will see that many meals get repeated (here it’s pizza every Friday night). These menus not only provide you with an easy way to make a grocery list, it also provides stability in your family and reduces stress on whoever is cooking. The decision on what to have for dinner (and subsequently lunch the next day) has already been made. If you have children (or a husband) there will be no “what’s for dinner???” questions, since posting the menu where everyone can see it will pre-empt them!

From those menus, you can plan your grocery lists. If you do not know where things are in your local store (or at your local farmers market, butchers, fish mongers, etc), take a bit of time to learn the layout of the store. You don’t need to know the exact location of each individual item, just the areas where they should be. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help finding something, or if you notice something’s best by date is today, don’t be afraid to ask for a mark down! Most stores do not mind marking down things that are going out of date that day. They would rather sell it at a reduced price than be forced to throw it out! Once you learn where things are at your local store, you can arrange your list based on the location of the items on it. For example, all fresh fruits and vegetables are together, all dairy is together, all flour and spices are together, etc. This will shave time off of your grocery shops, leaving you more time for other things. If you find an item that you absolutely cannot say no to (say, a roast at less than half price for example), go ahead and get it, just remember that your menus are flexible when needed and remember to adjust your list accordingly.

I will start baking bread again to save a bit on that. I’ve also cut down on the number of pieces of bacon and the number of eggs that we eat for breakfast every morning already.

Note: we do eat meat and I have certain food allergies (barley, almonds, macadamia nuts, and walnuts). I provide my menus and grocery lists as a guide, feel free to change anything you’d like. And please, do not send me hate mail due to some of the things we eat. If you don’t like something or are against eating something, then DON’T eat it!

Always have some sort of quick and easy comfort food on hand. There will be days that you will not feel like cooking, or you will need some of that comfort food. Don’t go overboard on it, you don’t want to be eating chips every night, but one meal with chips during the week or on the weekend is a nice special treat.

If you don’t know how to cook, start out slow and simple. Get comfortable with your cook top, grill, oven and microwave to start. Try to find someone who can teach you. If your family can’t help you learn how to cook, or if you’re some distance away from them, there are older people in your community that would probably love to share time with you and teach you to cook. Sometimes people forget about the older population and their wisdom! Some communities or churches may offer free (or low priced) cooking classes. Read recipes online, watch online cooking videos, and do research. If your style of cooking is different from someone else’s, don’t worry about it. So long as the food is cooked safely and you like it, it doesn’t matter about anyone else.

If you have a busy day, say, a child has practice or a recital one day of the week, schedule your meals around that. Always have a quick and easy go-to meal on your list that your family enjoys.

If you have a farmers market in your area, utilise its assets! Not only can you usually buy fresher food at a better price than the super markets, you know that usually more money is going straight to the farmers instead of suppliers, marketers, etc. that stand between the farmer and supermarket. Also, if you’ve never had one of the foods that they are offering, ask to try a small piece. They will usually say yes. Just be polite but honest about what you think. I’ve never had currents or gooseberries before, but they are in season here at the moment, and the next time I’m out shopping, I’ll be making sure to ask someone at my local farmers market for a taste. If I don’t try a food, I will not know if I will like it or not. The more ingredients you try and like, the more recipes will become available to you to play with.

Once you’re comfortable cooking with recipes, feel free to play around a bit with them. One word of advice though, when baking or making jam/jelly, stick to the recipe.

Don’t try to go cold turkey on things that your family is accustomed to having. If your family is accustomed to having soda, cut back on it to start with instead of stopping completely.


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