I’m writing this from the perspective of full-time working single parent of a teenager. As you can imagine there’s not much time where I’m sitting around twiddling my thumbs. Mum’s taxi seems to work overtime these days! Nor have I got unlimited money to burn. Each purchasing decision is carefully considered so that, not only there is enough for the essentials, but we have some pennies left over for fun too! As much as I’d like to shop in twee artisan shops like the one pictured here, the supermarket is invariably the place for me in terms of price and convenience.
So much of what is on offer is promoted on the basis that it can save time for busy people like me. I’m a keener chef-ette than most and ideally I’d like to cook from scratch all the time. But this is not always possible. So yes, if you rummaged through my freezer you’d find a ready made pizza. I know because I spotted it the other day! There’s shop bought Southern Fried Chicken and curly fries in there too. My teenager likes the occasional takeaway and these are cheaper alternatives.
Often though the benefits achieved from using pre-prepared foods seem negligible in return for the high price paid. Remember each stage of a production process is likely to add to the cost of what you’re putting in your basket. You’ll find some easy ideas of how to do this below. I hope that this shows that even the least confident cook can make changes to their shop that can lead to meaningful savings. Remember too there’s often less packaging involved so following these suggestions could also be better for the planet.
An 80g bag of Tyrells or Metcalfe’s salty popcorn costs £1.60 in Sainsbury’s. Look in the dry goods section instead of the snacking aisle and you’ll find a 500g bag of Natco popping corn at just £1.30. Just cover the base of a lightly oiled saucepan with the kernels and put the lid on. Heat and shake and wait to hear those kernels exploding. Add salt and sugar to taste before serving.
Puff pastry is convenience food in genius form! My mum makes her own but she is a dying breed. I top the shop bought version with lovely fresh ingredients to make a quick meal. Favourites include mozzarella and tomato with herbs, roasted vegetables with chunks of feta and caramelized onion and anchovy. However there’s convenient and convenient. In Sainsburys a ready rolled sheet of Jus-Rol comes in at 48p/100g whilst a block that just needs the attention of a rolling pin costs just 25p/100g. Convenience food in a form too far in my mind. The store’s own brand version increases those savings still further.
Frozen vegetables are sometimes seen inferior to fresh but this is not always the case. Peas are of course a freezer staple but I’ve discovered that supermarket frozen green beans are delicious too. Sainsbury’s charges £1.30 per kilo. 300g of packed fresh beans cost £1.40 and are less convenient than their frozen counterpart as they need to be topped and tailed! They didn’t have any pre-prepared fresh ones available when I looked on their website. However Waitrose do. 200g of trimmed green beans cost £1.35 there, a whopping £6.75 per kilo!
Don’t even get me started on coffee pods! They’re an environmental pet hate of mine. There’s even more of an excuse not to use them when you compare the cost of this Fairtrade Colombian coffee with Nespresso pods in Sainsbury’s, £1.43 vs. a whopping £4.76 per 100g. There’s a lot more bean for your buck when buy the loose stuff. Can I persuade anyone to dig out a spoon and rescue the cafetiere or filter coffee maker from the back of the cupboard?
10kg of Tilda Basmati rice rocks in at just £2.00 per kg, on special offer in Sainsbury’s at the time that I write. Just cook in boiling water for about 15 minutes.. It’s steamed counterpart, microwaveable in two minutes costs £3.20 per kg. Remember though that the saving is greater than it appears at first glance as the whopping great bag of uncooked brains contains no added water.
So get your thinking caps on and come up with your own ideas of how to reduce the amount of pre-prepared food in your supermarket trolley. It will save the pennies and can be healthier too! By stripping your shopping back to basic ingredients you get a better sense of what you’re eating and will find that you can easily eliminate unnecessary sugars, fats and additives.