Food shopping: how do you do yours?


A few years ago, I would never have thought there’d be a time when I’d find the topic of grocery shopping even remotely interesting, but these days it seems I can talk for hours on the subject.

Food and cooking have become major aspects of my life, which means by default that shopping has too. It’s intriguing to me that people tackle this task so differently. I’m endlessly curious about where people shop for food, when and how often. Do they fill their baskets online or in store? Are they loyal to one of the big supermarkets or do they try instead to support high street independents? How much do people spend, do they plan meals in advance and write shopping lists, or do they purchase on a whim or according to what looks good or is on offer?

I was asked recently by mySupermarket if I’d give their website a whirl to do my grocery shop. I had thought about giving them a try several times over the last year or so but to be honest I’d just never got around to it. I’d fallen into a routine that worked for me, and it was never the right time to try something new. So when I was asked to review what mySupermarket has to offer, I was interested in seeing if it would be enough to make me change my routine, and this seemed like a good excuse to ask others about their shopping routines.


So I posed a few questions on Twitter the other night. It would appear there are others out there who like talking about shopping as much as me.

Talking shop

Becky at The Ar-Blog does her grocery shop online “every week and a half ish”. She plans all the family’s meals and comes up with a shopping list for ingredients, after checking what they already have in the cupboard. “Plus we always have £5 for treats or posh nosh,” she adds. I do like that.

Laura from Strawberries and Facecream prefers to do her shopping online too, once a week. “Can’t bear taking the toddler to the supermarket!” My sentiments exactly. Laura’s a fan of Ocado where she says “the customer service is second to none and the food is always soopa fresh.” She also tries to meal plan to save money. “I watched some @jamieoliver Save programmes and it really inspired me.”

Likewise Emily from A Mummy Too does her shop online. “I do weekly after food planning and always from Asda as we invest in the regular delivery pass.”

But shopping online isn’t popular with everyone.

Lizzie aka @Mrs_Gaffer likes to do her shop at Tesco, or perhaps Asda if she’s nipping out to pick up extra bits in her lunch hour. She says she “tried online but prefer to choose my own veg etc. Sadly we’re creatures of habit.”

Sian from Fishfingers for Tea always used to do her food shopping online but she now finds “going to Aldi saves us so much money that I struggle to justify doing it online now!” Sian shops once a week with “milk top ups in between.” While most of the groceries comes from Aldi, she doesn’t mind a bit of shopping around, either at the market or places like Home Bargains, when she knows she can get certain things cheaper.

It sounds to me like Sian has got grocery shopping down to something of a fine art. She does her Aldi shop in about 20 minutes and the rest of her shopping takes no more than half an hour across the week. Of course, it probably helps that she produces a meal plan first, which takes around 45 minutes.

And many of us combine online with ‘real’ shopping, like The Ginger Gourmand: “Ocado for store cupboard stuff every 10-14 days. Fishmongers, markets, greengrocer etc at weekend.”

Some people are verging on the regimental when it comes to their shopping…

Ruby aka @RubyKnickers says, “Always Tesco, always online, always delivered on the same day at a similar time.”

While others are a little more laid back or, dare I say, haphazard…

Kirsty from Eeh Bah Mum says, “Ideally: weekly. Realistically: when I need stuff. In all honesty: halfway through cooking it.”

When Michelle from Utterly Scrummy Food for Families took me through her shopping routine, it sounded uncannily similar to mine. “We shop weekly with Asda, we’ve got a delivery pass,” explains Michelle. “I’ve got the menu planning and online shopping down to 1 hour maximum. I always do a stock take first too, so I don’t over-buy and look at our schedule for the week – work, school stuff, meetings etc. I dump stuff in the basket midweek to secure a slot, then amend once I have planned.” Other than the fact I tend to use Ocado or Sainsbury’s, this could be a description of how I do my weekly shop.

We all have our own ways of filling our cupboards and fridges with food, designed around all kinds of individual factors – from work and family to the fact that the shop on the other side of town has an amazing offer on pickled herring or our heads cave in if we are forced to spend more than five minutes in a supermarket with small children. But something that seems to unite most of us is cost. We are all looking to save money and pick up a bargain.

What is mySupermarket?


The primary aim of the mySupermarket website is to help shoppers save both time and money by comparing prices from all the main supermarkets. There are three main ways people use the site: you can order your basket online, print your basket as a shopping list and take it with you to your local supermarket, or simply use it to compare different supermarket prices online. They’ve also launched a new mobile app, mySuperlist, which gives you another way to ‘shop on the go’.

I don’t really know why I hadn’t thought of trying them before because, when I think about it, the whole concept fits beautifully with how I shop already.

My routine is to do an online shop once a week, quite often with a glass of wine in hand, after first putting together a meal plan (I’m a huge advocate of the meal plan – take a look at my very first blog post), and after checking what supplies we already have in and what we’ve got coming up in the diary.

I tend to switch between Ocado and Sainsbury’s. Why? Well, because I haven’t worked out which is cheaper, and because only Ocado offers certain products we like, while other things I can only get at Sainsbury’s. Ocado, for instance, sells the perfect kabanos sausages for hiding a tablet in to feed to the cat. Don’t ask.

Switch and save

I was vaguely aware that mySupermarket allowed you to compare prices, but I assumed it would only really be helpful for comparing individual items. I didn’t fancy the idea of going to several different stores to get the cheapest deals on different products. It turns out the beauty of mySupermarket is it allows you to do an entire shop, all the while providing a running total of how much your basket would cost at both your chosen store and each of the others available in your area.

screenshot final cost comparison and savings

The price comparison above was from our Christmas shop. I’d never spend this much normally, but it was to last us nearly a fortnight and there were a fair few luxury items in there.

I was worried it would prove difficult learning my way around a new site, but I was pleased to find mySupermarket is extremely easy to use.

I started off by importing all my favourites from my Sainbury’s online account. Discovering I could do this was a huge relief, as I really couldn’t face the idea of starting over again from scratch. I then did my shopping as I usually would; first of all going through the things I needed for the meal plan I’d prepared for the Christmas and New Year period, and then going through my list of favourites for all the usual household items we get through, such as loo paper and washing up liquid.

And all the time, the tally in the right sidebar was showing me the total cost at Sainsbury’s compared with the other stores. I found it quite exciting to see how the totals varied –  the store in ‘first place’ switched frequently between Sainsbury’s and Asda. Ocado (my other usual online store) sat resolutely in bottom position pretty much from the start. The final difference between Sainsbury’s and Asda wasn’t huge, but I was shocked at the difference between Sainsbury’s and Ocado which was almost £30. I’m now not sure if those kabanos sausages are special enough to persuade me to do my entire shop there in future.

Swap and save

The other element I was rather impressed by was the way in which mySupermarket suggests smart swaps and replacements while you shop to help you save even more money – either by trading down or buying more to make a bulk saving.

swap and save

Finding the best deals can take a lot of time and effort when you are shopping online normally, and so I found I used this function quite a bit. There were times though when I didn’t like the cheaper alternatives provided, generally when I was looking at meat for instance and the swap and save items would not be free range. But probably seven times out of ten, I went with the cheaper option and ended up saving a fair whack.

Shopping list

I also liked the shopping list function. Rather than searching for items individually, one after the other, you can simply type in a long list – ideal when you’re going through the ingredients needed for your meal plan or a particular dish, and then mySupermarket searches for them all at once.

screenshot shopping list

Savvy buys

‘Savvy Buys’ is another useful offering from mySupermarket. This brings up any products that are more than 30% off their average price at that store. You’ll never find this kind of information promoted by individual supermarkets. Quite often I discovered they’re not actually promoted by the supermarket as special offers, so they would otherwise be incredibly easy to miss.

screenshot savvy buys

All in all I was extremely impressed with mySupermarket. I successfully saved £34 on my first shop, which is definitely not a sum to be sniffed at. I have since shopped using mySupermarket again; the next time I saved £13 but this was a much smaller shop, and again Sainsbury’s came out cheapest and Ocado most expensive.

The only slight issue I have with mySupermarket is that you must complete your full shop when you book a delivery slot. What I usually do, just like Michelle from Utterly Scrummy above, is to grab the slot I want and bung any old items in the basket to secure it. I then come back nearer to the delivery date, once I’ve prepared my meal plan, to do the shop properly. You can’t do this with mySupermarket at the moment, but when I mentioned this they said they’re aware that many people shop like this and their developers are working on ways to incorporate this functionality in the future. So that sounds promising.

I plan on sticking with mySupermarket for my weekly online shop. It turns out that what they have to offer is enough to make me change my usual routine, but to be honest that really isn’t a massive change as it fits so neatly. I genuinely look forward to using mySupermarket so that I can continue to find the best deals easily and saving lots of lovely dosh.

Have you used mySupermarket? Has it saved you money on your grocery shopping?

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. mySupermarket paid £50 towards my first shop using their website in return for a review. All views expressed are completely my own and are 100% honest.

Highs and lows in the Bangers & Mash kitchen – part 2

I’m so happy to report a fortnight of consistent highs in the Bangers & Mash kitchen. I think I’m getting better at tackling more adventurous dishes at the weekend when I have more time, and keeping things very, very simple on the more hectic week days.

There was an almost-low at the weekend when my butternut squash gnocchi threatened to go pear-shaped at the last-minute. I’d spent an age preparing the squash and potato: first baking the veggies; passing it through a sieve before making the dumplings; gently simmering; and finally frying off. Of course when it came to the frying stage, my non-stick frying pan was in the dishwasher so I resorted to the non-non-stick pan.  And my gorgeous little dumplings instantly stuck to the pan and turned to mush. Quite infuriating. However, I don’t give in that easily.

Butternut squash gnocchi – so nearly a disaster but turned out quite gorgeous in the end

I retrieved the expensive frying pan and started again, and all the effort was worth it. A beautiful dish but quite a faff! I’ll post the recipe soon, but make sure you have a whole afternoon free if you fancy trying it out.

So on to singling out some of the highs. First up was a Thai-style cauliflower soup with coriander garlic bread. This made a perfect easy supper for a Meat Free Monday. It’s not one of the prettiest dishes I’ve ever come across but it tasted so good. My Mum wants the recipe, so I’m under orders to post it very soon on the blog.

Thai-style cauliflower soup with coriander and garlic bread

My Dad and Step-Mum came to stay for the weekend so I cooked wild garlic risotto again, after making them forage for the ingredients with the kids en route to a spot of Pooh Sticks. It seemed to go down very well. I followed it up with a simple plum and stem ginger fool, using Greek yoghurt instead of double cream, and it was absolutely delicious.

Plum and stem ginger fool, made with Greek yoghurt instead of double cream

A perfect dish for a busy week night is this grilled chicken parmesan from Karista’s Kitchen. Very simple grilled chicken breast with mozzarella (slightly confused about where the parmesan was though), which I served with steamed rice and stir-fried spring greens. I think this one could become a bit of a staple mid-week supper.

Grilled chicken parmesan (or should that be mozzarella?) from Karista’s Kitchen

Then there was the fantastically easy asparagus with poached eggs. What more need I say? New season asparagus with dippy eggs. Perfect.

A super speedy mid-week supper: asparagus with poached egg

Although this blog is called Bangers & Mash, I’m conscious I haven’t posted nearly enough sausage-related recipes, despite them being fairly fundamental to our family food. This week I made two very tasty but very different banger-based meals, showing the brilliant versatility of the humble sausage. The first was a quick and easy sausage and fennel bake, and the second was an indulgent slow-cooked spicy sausage penne, which I cooked when friends came over for dinner on Saturday night. Very good with a couple of bottles of red wine.

Sausage and fennel bake
Slow-cooked spicy sausage penne

Now, over to the last fortnight’s meal plans…

Monday 16 April
Lunch: rice salad
Dinner: kids – ratatouille and rice (F) adults – Thai-style cauliflower soup and coriander garlic bread 

Tuesday 17 April
Lunch: tarragon chicken pasta (F)
Dinner: kids – fish fingers, chips and peas (F) adults – purple sprouting broccoli with Thai dressing

Wednesday 18 April
Lunch: sweet pepper and mushroom cous cous 
Dinner: kids – salmon fish cakes (F) adults – Chinese sausage and noodle soup

Thursday 19 April
Lunch: salad wraps
Dinner: kids – tasty chicken rice (F) adults – steamed asparagus and dippy poached eggs

Friday 20 April
Lunch: pasta salad
Dinner: cottage pie

Saturday 21 April
Lunch: bread and cheese
Dinner: wild garlic risotto and salad; plum and stem ginger fool

Sunday 22 April
Lunch: spaghetti carbonara and salad 
Dinner: bread and cheese

Monday 23 April
Lunch: cheese and chutney rolls
Dinner: cottage pie (leftovers from Friday)

Tuesday 24 April
Lunch: red slaw (recipe to follow)
Dinner: kids – ratatouille and rice adults – grilled chicken parmesan

Wednesday 25 April
Lunch: rice and chicken salad
Dinner: pork, black pudding and apple pie (F)

Thursday 26 April
Lunch: ham and salad rolls
Dinner: baked sausages and fennel

Friday 27 April
Lunch: carrot and coriander soup
Dinner: spicy spinach and potato, chapatis and raita

Saturday 28 April
Lunch: falafels, pitta bread, tzatsiki and salad
Dinner: slow-cooked spicy sausage penne; rhubarb and stem ginger fool

Sunday 29 April
Lunch: butternut squash gnocchi with garlic butter
Dinner: bread and cheese

F = from freezer

Highs and lows in the Bangers & Mash kitchen – part 1

There have been lots of highs and not too many lows in the Bangers & Mash kitchen in recent weeks.

I’ll get the lows out of the way first.

The first  was a dish that really should have been too easy to mess up: a simple Swiss chard and potato tortilla. Then I went and left it in the oven just a tad too long and the egg turned to dry rubber. Not nice. But lesson learned for next time.

More disappointing though was the fact I messed up my husband’s birthday cake. He requested a boston creme pie from Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess. I’ve had a few baking successes recently and so perhaps I got a little cocky and over-ambitious.

Boston creme pie – but where did all the filling go?!

Well, the cake and ganache were delicious, but the creme anglaise filling was an absolute disaster. I should have known it wasn’t thick enough but I was in a rush and used it anyway. So when I put the second tier on top, it all slowly spilled out to leave a dry cake. Ah well, another lesson learned.

But let’s forget about those blips and move on to the  highlights. First on the list is a lovely springtime dish using ingredients foraged from the local hedges – wild garlic risotto. This was so good I’m making it again this weekend when my Dad and Step-Mum come to stay.

Wild and free – wild garlic risotto!

Who doesn’t love a good Sunday roast? Especially when it’s delicious free range pork with proper salty crackling, lashings of apple sauce and a cheesy leek bake on the side. This is what I made for my husband’s birthday meal on Easter Sunday. So although I ruined the pudding, he couldn’t complain too much because the main course had been so tasty!

Roast pork and crackling

Sometimes it’s the most basic meals that turn out be the tastiest. One Monday evening I cooked us all a super speedy supper of stir-fried spring greens with noodles. Something seemingly worthy and virtuous was also exceptionally appetising, thanks to lots of ginger, garlic, Chinese rice wine, black vinegar and soy sauce.

Stir-fried spring greens with noodles

Tarragon is fast becoming one of my favourite herbs. I really like it in chicken dishes, such as the scrummy chicken pasta I made when my good friend Sarah came over during the Easter holidays with her kids. It’s an easy meal which also includes leeks, purple sprouting broccoli and cream cheese.

Tarragon chicken pasta with purple sprouting broccoli and leeks

When a recipe featuring black pudding appeared on my Twitter timeline recently I just had to try it. It was a pork, apple and black pudding pie and the perfect way to use up the leftover roast pork from Sunday lunch. Black pudding is a real guilty pleasure for me. Maybe it’s down to my Dad’s side of the family coming from Lancashire. Anyway the pie was absolutely delicious served with onion gravy and wild garlic mashed potato.

Pork, apple and black pudding pie

Finally to the spicy lamb meatballs. My family adores meatballs but I’ve only ever made them with beef or pork mince. I’ll definitely make this lamb version again, complemented so well by the spices, apricot and fresh mint. Next time I might serve them in warmed pitta bread with salad and tzatsiki.

Spicy lamb meatballs – a firm family favourite

Now onto the meal plans for the last fortnight in full detail…

Monday 2 April
Lunch: rice salad
Dinner: noodles and stir-fried spring greens (recipe coming soon)

Tuesday 3 April
Lunch: baked potatoes
Dinner: kids – tasty chicken rice (F) adults – chard and potato tortilla

Wednesday 4 April
Lunch: brie and salad rolls 
Dinner: kids – beef casserole and rice (F) adults – bacon and tomato pasta

Thursday 5 April
Lunch: OUT
Dinner: broccoli, potato and walnut salad with homemade garlic bread

Friday 6 April
Lunch: grilled chicken breast wrapped in garlic with beetroot and nectarine salad
Dinner: carrot and coriander soup

Saturday 7 April
Lunch: OUT
Dinner: OUT

Sunday 8 April
Lunch: roast pork with apple sauce, roast potatoes and vegetables
Dinner: bread and cheese

Monday 9 April
Lunch: wild garlic risotto and salad
Dinner: sandwiches

Tuesday 10 April
Lunch: OUT
Dinner: kids – tasty chicken rice adults – leek and cheese bake with rosemary crumbs

Wednesday 11 April
Lunch: baked potatoes
Dinner: chicken and mushrooms in cream with rice and steamed broccoli

Thursday 12 April
Lunch: tarragon chicken pasta (recipe to follow)
Dinner: kids – fish fingers, chips and peas adults – garlic mushroom omelette and salad

Friday 13 April
Lunch: cheese rolls
Dinner: spicy lamb meatballs with rice

Saturday 14 April
Lunch: pork, apple and black pudding pie
Dinner: bread and cheese

Sunday 15 April
Lunch: picnic
Dinner: OUT

= from freezer