Time to share my pantry shopping methods again, I think, as I can see as clearly as the next person, that prices in the shops are rising stupidly. 90p for a can of tuna, £1.50 for a litre of cooking oil? These are only two examples of things that I have recently NOT bought in a supermarket, although they have been on my list, because of the price. Hearing that Froogs has bought sugar at 88p a bag or thereabouts made me quake at paying over a £1 for a bag.
And so, this week, I have been doing it with more thought, and continuing in our normal practice, which is a different approach from what "most" people do. The general population, I believe, seems to go to the shop and buy what they think the family needs for the forthcoming week. They may have planned their menu for the week ahead, they may not have done. Those who have some kind of plan may be slightly in front of those without.
Some of us are different.
(image from approvedfood.co.uk)
We buy things in bulk from Approved Food because we know a bargain when we see one, and we know that we can find a use, and save some money, by buying an item there. I never go to the AF website with a list of what I want - because they won't have it in stock. 'Tis always best to browse through the site, see what they have, what we use, and then edit the basket quite aggressively before checking out, I find!
We also buy more than one of something when we see it at a good price. Oil at £1.25/litre? I'll take three. Tuna at less than 70p a can? I'll stock up with four, please. Sugar at 89p a bag? I'll pick up four this week and come back for more another week if there is still some in stock.
After posting earlier in the month about feeling the need to begin to get the stocks in again for the winter, I went through my cupboards with a notepad and pen, and made a list of stuff that I knew we needed, and it is all stuff we use regularly. Then, as I have been out and about with the girls, passing that shop here and this one there, I have popped in to see what the prices are like. Oil in the major supermarkets is too expensive, but I passed an Aldi this afternoon, and found it cheaper there. Tuna has risen to giddy heights in some supermarkets, but Morrison's had a good deal on it last week, and Aldi has also got it at a good price today, so I have about 8 tins in the cupboards now.
(image from dailymail.co.uk)
It is also about knowing your prices, knowing a figure in your head of what you are prepared to pay for that item, and sticking to it. It is also a matter of not making specific trips to buy particular items, but buying a little stash when you are passing somewhere that has a good deal on that item. I probably won't get back to the sugar shop for a week or ten days, until I go back to that area - I have had to order in tiles for the fireplace for the repairs of the lightning damage, so when I go back to pick them up, I may take the opportunity to check the sugar situation again. We use sugar for preserving and baking, and it doesn't go out of date, so it is no ill store, as my mother would have said.
And so meal planning is different. We don't plan according to what we see in the shops this week, or even what we fancy from the shops, but according to what we have in the pantry, which has been bought at the best possible prices, and saves us the most pennies on our food bill. I'm using the word "pantry" here in the widest sense, because at this time of the year, it would mean food in the cupboards, the stores, the freezers, growing in the garden, and what I have also been given!
Shopping is a matter of keeping the stores replenished, storage is about rotating the stores and making sure that the oldest items are used up first, and it all stretches the food budget.