I found myself with a bunch of over-ripe bananas the other day. Normally the first thing I’d think to make would be banana bread but on a warm June afternoon, following a day spent in a stuffy office, the last thing I wanted to do was bake.
So I came up with this very quick and simple banana yoghurt dessert, with a base of trifle sponge – something else I needed to use up.
I felt very virtuous knowing I’d avoided filling the food waste bin and we had a scrummy pudding in less than ten minutes. Result.
Easy banana yoghurt puds
6 trifle sponges
4 or 5 ripe bananas
500g natural yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp runny honey
blueberries (or any other fresh berries) to garnish
Break up the trifle sponges and divide between four glasses or small bowls. Drizzle over a little apple juice – just enough to soak into the sponges and make them soft.
In a blender, simply whizz up the bananas with the yoghurt, vanilla extract and honey. Pour the banana mixture over the trifle sponges in each glass and garnish with blueberries or whatever berries you might happen to have in the fridge.
It’s so easy it hardly warrants a recipe but you’ve got one anyway!
How do you shop? Until recently I’d never given the way I shop for food and groceries a second thought. I never thought there might be different ways to shop, or any skill involved.
Shopping had always simply been one of those necessary chores I had to do on a frequent albeit ad hoc basis, whenever the fridge and cupboards started looking a bit empty.
Ever since leaving home at the age of 18 for university, I’ve shopped when I thought I needed to and bought what I thought I needed, generally the same items every time.
Perhaps it’s because I’d never been shown how to cook or shop. I rarely went food shopping with my parents and I never showed much interest in what was happening in the kitchen. Do we need to be shown? Did your parents teach you these things? Or I am simply trying to blame others for my inadequacies? Is shopping really a matter of common sense?
Well, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this blog, my husband and I had to cut our budgets last year. Analysing our bank statements, we realised that this ‘finger in the air’ approach had resulted in massive over-spending, a hideous amount of food waste, and – what probably upsets me most – fairly mediocre meals.
When it finally dawned on me that a little simple planning each week would make life easier, it felt like a huge revelation. Silly isn’t it? I’m feeling quite foolish as I write this. It’s all so blindingly obvious when you think about it.
But when you’re rushing around in your twenties balancing work and a hectic social life, and then in your thirties balancing work and an even more hectic family life (with a bit of social life squeezed in when you can), you don’t really step back and think about how you do things. You just do. Or at least that was my problem anyway.
So the glaringly simple solution is to work out first what you’re going to eat and then you shop only for what you need. Easy, eh? Well maybe not. So many of my friends have been fascinated by my meal plans, curious about how I create them and intrigued about how long I’ll be able to keep it up for. Although I’ve come across many people out in the webisphere who make meal plans, I’m the only one out of all the people I actually know who does this.
I don’t want to be teaching grandmothers to suck eggs. So if all this is too basic, I really won’t be offended if you quit here. But in case you are interested here is what I do…
My Sunday night ritual
Every Sunday evening, once the children are in bed, I sit down at my computer with a glass of wine and work out our family meals for the week ahead. I found it quite hard work at first. I’d much rather be sat on the sofa watching telly but I now rather enjoy surrounding myself with recipe books and checking out different blogs and websites to get ideas.
I order the bulk of my week’s groceries online from one of the big supermarket chains. While of course I’d prefer to buy all our food from local shops and markets, the simple truth is that a) as a working mum I don’t have the time and b) I wouldn’t be able to afford it.
The beauty of shopping online is that I avoid actually having to step foot into a supermarket. They are not my favourite places. Although the real advantage of shopping online is avoiding temptation. Whenever I go into a supermarket, I always come out with more than I intended.
Veg boxes and butchers
But I don’t buy everything from the supermarket. I also get a weekly organic vegetable box delivered the same day as my supermarket shop and I buy most of our meat from the local butcher or farm shop, while fish comes from the Saturday market.
I might not have a massive budget but I like to eat good food. In my opinion organic vegetables taste so much better and are worth paying a bit more for, while meat from supermarkets very rarely compares with the local meat your butcher can supply. When you plan your meals carefully, you find you can afford to use good ingredients because you are wasting so much less. And it’s worth eating meat less often in order to be able to eat better, tastier meat. Since shopping this way, I have succeeded in halving the amount I spend on groceries.
So on a Sunday evening, I’ll check to see what veggies will be included in our veg box and I’ll look at the family calendar to see when we’re busy and need easy meals and when we’re home so can spend more time in the kitchen. And our menu materializes magically from there.
Some days will see us feasting like kings on big roast dinners, while on others we’re eating beans on toast like paupers. It’s all about balance and moderation.
Once I’ve worked out our meal plan, I then get online and do the supermarket shop, highlighting in the diary what meat or fish I need to pick up during the week, preferably on days when I’m already out and about.
All in all, this will probably take me about two hours each Sunday evening. This might sound like quite a long a time but it really saves so much time and hassle later in the week.
There you have it. That’s how I shop. Now back to my original question. How do you shop? I’d love to compare notes.
PS I’m about to start posting my weekly meal plans – so watch this space!
Earlier this year I realised I had to make some serious changes to how I shop for food and cook for my family.
My husband had changed jobs and starting a new career in a primary school, while I was in the process of cutting my work hours to spend more time with our children. Our monthly income had taken a severe nosedive.
One evening we sat down to work out where we could reduce our outgoings. We were shocked, nay disgusted, at how much we’d been spending on groceries. I’d always thought I was pretty organised with our food shopping, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. What made it worse was how blissfully ignorant we were of what a hash we’d been making of things.
On top of the fortnightly deliveries from Sainsbury’s Online, our bank statements told a sorry tale of frequent pops to the local corner shop to top up on things we’d run out of (and of course those emergency bottles of wine required after stressful days) and buying impulse items at markets and farm shops, doing our bit to support local producers naturally.
Despite spending an astronomic amount on food and drink, it occurred to us that we hadn’t really been eating well for our money. All too often we’d go to our (full) fridge but be lost for what to cook for supper. None of the lovely ingredients would quite add up to a meal. So we’d end up resorting to a basic staple (like spaghetti with sauce) or, I’m sorry to say, ordering a takeaway.
Then there’s the food waste. The amount going in the food bin each week as a result of this haphazard approach to food shopping was shameful.
Now I know it’s not rocket science but when the idea of a weekly meal plan occurred to me it felt like a major revelation. My Nana and mother-in-law think I’m hilarious because this is how they always cooked for their families; simply sitting down once a week to decide on meals for the coming week and then shopping accordingly.
These days it’s not how most of us shop or eat. Not the people I know anyway. We decide what we fancy on the day, which means eating out lots, shopping every day or having a fridge full of ‘just in case’ ingredients that end up rotting to a squishy pulp somewhere at the back.
Because life is hectic we think we don’t have time to plan ahead. But I’ve learned over the last few months that spending an hour or so on a Sunday evening planning meals saves so much time later in the week. There are far fewer trips to the corner shop and I love having the freezer stocked with meals for those days when I know I’m going to be too busy to cook, never mind even think about food.
As well as massively reducing the amount of food getting chucked out and slashing our food bills by about half, the simple act of planning our meals has also led to us eating a much more varied, interesting and health diet.
Because I’ve been raving about the benefits of meal planning to anyone who’ll listen, friends have suggested I start a blog to share my experiences. So here it is. Notes from my kitchen for anyone like me trying to feed their family good, tasty, wholesome food on a limited budget, without compromising on quality of ingredients.
So watch this space for recipe suggestions, weekly meal plans and ways to save money as well as details of my culinary successes and failures. I just want to share what works for me and my family in case any of it’s useful, and I’d love to hear from you on what works for you and yours!