Friday, July 9, 2010

Helen Ponders

 Why is my hand stuck to a radio and why is my watch so darn tight?   I'm going to pass out soon....gawd, I'm hungry.

 Laura from The Mordaunts asked me: "I was wondering if you could give some hints/tip on how you got started with the weekly budget. I really need/want to do something similar. I am sure that we bleed money into our food budget constantly with our disorganized shopping.   What are Auntie Helen's tricks for getting started on the road to food planning, food budgeting and food loving?"   Ask, dear Laura, and ye shall recieve!

I started with a well stocked pantry; my basic list would be as follows:
Broth mix
Chick peas
Stock cubes
Wide range of dried herbs and spices
Dried chillies
Maldon sea salt
Olive and extra virgin olive oil
Sesame oil
Groundnut and vegetable oil
Soy sauce
Seeds and nuts
Dried noodles (fine)
Dried pasta
Vinegar; balsamic, wine, etc.
Tomato puree
Chopped tomatoes
Jarred artichokes
Herb plants
Fresh chillies

 Fridge items:
Cheese: Parmesan, cheddar, goats, feta

Flour: plain, self-raising, wholemeal, bread
Sugar: caster, icing (fine, superfine), brown, demerera
Almond and vanilla extract
Dark and milk chocolate
Parchment paper

You can make a multitude of meals with the items above and almost all of these will last for some time.   To buy all these items at once would cost between £50-£75.   That would be your first shop with some meat thrown in there for the week!

Now that you have your basics, you want to write out your menu for the week with the following principles:
* What meals does everyone like and what meals would I cook just for adults and just for kids?   Minimise meals which need you to cook twice!
* As a general rule of thumb, have one chicken, one meat, one fish, one pasta, one rice, one vegetable and two leftovers a week.
* It's worth spending money on free range chicken; buy large and pick clean for another meal and for soup.
*When buying meat, look out for special offers and cook large batches and freeze.   Remember what you have in there so that you can add a frozen item onto your menu each week or so.
*Use leftover chicken or meat to serve with pasta or couscous.
*Even cooked veg can be kept to throw into soup or a pie.

Get the whole family involved; ask them what their favourites are and ask them what new foods they'd be willing to try.   Get the kids to eat favourites mixed with new flavours e.g. my kids like fish like salmon and coley and they like cheese sauce so I combined them with a smoked fish to make a fish pie and will add less cheese each time until I have a mainly white sauce.

Get them to have routines: someone kneads the dough for the bread every Saturday, another cuts up all the vegetables for Sunday's roast....get them to give you suggestions as to what to add for flavour and try it small batches!

Shop once a week for the week ahead...if it lasts longer,'ll find this will happen from time to time as the freezer gets stocked up.   Buy what you need as per your menu plan...write a shopping list....and also decide what you want for lunches and breakfast.   Don't overdo the fresh ingredients unless you are willing to cook some meals in advance i.e. if you need fresh coriander for Friday's curry and it is Monday, do your weekly shopping on the Friday or buy a plant instead of cut herbs.   Keep money aside for bread and milk from the local shop.

Change the above to suit your own family and your own needs; set a budget that suits you and try to stick to it.   Don't waste anything; if it needs used, cook it and freeze it, if it needs eaten, have it for dinner or freeze it...everything can be made into a pie, a stew or soup.....everything!

Good luck!

Messy but very tasty brownies!


Little Ms Blogger said...

In the States, we have weekly grocery flyers. If you don't get them in the mail, go online and look at them -- I also print out online coupons and will freeze items if a really good bargain (e.g., butter).

However, you hit the nail on the head -- a well stocked pantry is the best step to staying in budget...AND LEFTOVERS...

Helen McGinn said...

So true, LMB...lovely to see you! x

mimbles said...

I know I spend too much on groceries but every time I look at what we're getting I find it really hard to see where to make the changes. More regular meal planning and shopping list writing is definitely the first step though, it works so well when I actually do it!

gaelikaa said...

Fabulous post! I'd have my own variations given where I live and the vegetarian habit of my family. But it's great, really great. Well done!

LisaDay said...

Those are great tips, and one's I wouldn't have thought of. The obvious ones are don't shop hungry and don't buy fast foods.


Laura said...

Thank you so much for this Helen!

The pantry supply list is a huge help! Having a place to start from makes it seem less overwhelming a task to take on.

I really appreciate you taking the time to write this up. I am taking it all to heart and mind!

Laura said...

Thank you so much for this Helen!

The pantry supply list is a huge help! Having a place to start from makes it seem less overwhelming a task to take on.

I really appreciate you taking the time to write this up. I am taking it all to heart and mind!

mise said...

That's the spirit, Helen! Where can I vote for you to be the governmental Home Cooking consultant?

Helen McGinn said...

mimbles, so true...and I think waste is one of the biggest issues too.

gaelikaa, that's so true, each list will depend on family variations, i.e. taste, culture, vegetarianism etc. Thanks for mentioning that. x

LisaDay, I should have mentioned them, thank you for doing so! x

Laura, you are very welcome, I hope it helps a little. x

mise, yeah! Lets start a campaign! ;O)

Unknown Mami said...

My husband and I are really bad at this. We go to the store and two days later we have nothing to eat because we didn't think in terms of what meals we would be making.

Janice said...

Lovely to see you back Helen. I've been planning my menus for years. Some weeks though I just can't be bothered, I give myself permission to implulse buy every now and again. Interestingly, my younger son (21) tells me that he and his girlfriend now plan before they shop and are saving more money.

aladdinsane12 said...

great tips! i really need to get a move-on on learning how to cook. i'm still a stir-fry and spaghetti kinda gal at the moment. i think i just need to stock up on the basics like you suggested and i'll at least be PREPARED to cook! :)

Helen McGinn said...

U. Mami, most of us do that for a while. :O)

Janice, oh I'm the same! I tend to have an entirely different budget for eating out and that's my treat....there is a restaurant/cafe in the west end of Glasgow called Kember & Jones; let's just say, they receive a high percentage of my cash... ;O) Great to know it rubs off on the kids!

aladdinsane12, I've got a feeling you'd be a roaring success as a cook. Nothing wrong with stir frys and spaghetti...I was the same before all these kids appeared outta nowhere.... ;O)

koralee said...

Thank you for this today...I will take note..need to stock up that pantry a little more! Happy week to you my friend. xoxo

Virginia Mom said...

I totally agree about stocking the basics- that is what I've found to be the most helpful. (Now, if I could just find enough extra room in my fridge to store all the plentiful fruits and veggies that are available this time of year, I'd have it made!!!) :)