I DON’T think there is a person in the country whose jaw hasn’t dropped over the last few weeks at the rapidly rising cost of items in the supermarkets.
Week on week, when we do our food shop, some products rise in cost by as much as a euro! There is little we can do to avoid the rising costs unfortunately, because we all need to eat, but perhaps now is the time to think smarter about how we shop and how we use our food, to cut down on food wastage and make sure our cents stretch as far as they can go.
MAKE A LIST AND DO A MEAL PLAN
It goes without saying that the first thing you should always do before you go to do the shopping is to do out a list of what you need and what you don’t. While we are doing the shopping list, we are also doing a loose meal plan for the week ahead.
We start with the meat as the basis of each meal, and then we loosely plan what meals I might make based on the different days of the week, and what needs to be slow cooked or quick and easy, or what can require a bit of time on a less hectic evening.
DO YOU REALLY NEED IT?
I’m the type that gets a notion that I want creamy potato gratin but I don’t have cream in the fridge so I might pop down to the shop for it. However, that can lead to me buying other things I don’t need on top of the cream I didn’t really need either. A very useful habit to get into is simply googling the ingredients you have and seeing what recipes are thrown up for you to recreate. I often find this is a great opportunity to mix it up and do something I wouldn’t have otherwise thought of.
COST PER WEIGHT
When you are shopping, a very important thing to do is to compare the price of similar products on a cost per weight or volume basis.
On each price tag you will see the price of the product on a per kg basis or per litre basis, depending on the type of product. It is a very straightforward way of comparing the same or similar products across different sizes or even different packaging! It often follows that the smaller the product, the more expensive it is, so you might think you’re getting the cheaper option, but in reality, you are not.
Take, for example Chef Ketchup in one retailer – the 340g bottle works out at €2.09 and the 740g bottle is €3.29, maybe the saving is obvious but if it isn’t, a side by side comparison the of the products will show the ketchup in the larger bottle is €4.15 per kg and the exact same product in the small bottle is €6.15 per kg. That is a sizeable price difference for the exact same product.
In some instances, you are paying more for the pleasure of a squeezy bottle as opposed the plain old simple glass jar.
TRY SOMETHING NEW
Be open to switching up your favourite products from time to time. We have some non-negotiables, like we absolutely love going to the butcher and getting our meat from there, but what we can do is opt for a cheaper cut of meat, like stewing beef over steak for a slow cooker meal during the week.
A really easy switch is to opt for supermarket branded tins of tomatoes over branded ones, I put so much flavour into a dinner that uses chopped tomatoes that in the end the tin doesn’t really matter. When you consider that a three pack of supermarket branded tomatoes is €1.35 versus €4.35 for three branded tins, that seems to me like a simple switch.
KNOW YOUR DATES
We also have to get clever about using food that is nearing its end of life, and cut down as much as we can on food waste.
Soups and smoothies are great for using up vegetables and fruit that won’t make the cut for lunchboxes or dinners.
Knowing the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates is important too – best before means that you still have scope to eat that product after the date but the use by date is not one you want to disregard.
It’s exhausting these days, fighting fires as we try to go back to some degree of normality, it feels like crisis after crisis lurches towards us, but humans are adaptable and nothing lasts forever!