The story of a shopping list

Picture of tuna nicoise salad using Havensfield eggs and Fairfields Farm potatoes, part of the Sourced Locally range from East of England Co-op

Tuna nicoise salad, with Sourced Locally food from the Co-op

 

Ever wondered what people buy when food shopping, and why? The story of their shopping list, if you like?

If you’re nosey like me, it’s fascinating to see what people put in their shopping trollies, or pile up on the conveyor belt at the till. (Really hoping I’m not on my own here, based on the Mumsnet threads celebrating discarded shopping lists.)

Food eats up a big chunk of the family budget. Cutting food costs can therefore be a great way to save some cash.

When I really focus on our food bills, like during a couple of store cupboard challenges in February and June last year, I got our food spending down to about £40 a week. That covered our family of four – two adults and two children, then aged eight and six. Otherwise our food bills creep up a bit to about £60 to £70 a week. Add on the occasional take away, or snacks when out, and it soon starts to spiral.

Anyway, during June, I’ve decided to focus more on our food shopping bills. Cutting food costs doesn’t have to mean deprivation, and living on gruel. I still aim to make food we all like. I just try to cut costs by planning ahead, savvy shopping and cooking from scratch wherever possible.

Last week, we’d run out of milk and also needed provisions for a picnic at the weekend, so I nipped to the shops after the school run.

Here’s the story of my shopping list from start to finish, including what I bought and why.

Picture of East of England Co-op meal deal, money off and dividend vouchers for Sourced Locally fortnight

Vouchers aplenty to cut food costs

Before shopping

This was a quick top up shop to get us through a few days, rather than a “pile ’em high, feed the 500 for a fortnight” shopping spree.

I decided to go to our local Co-op partly because it was convenient, but partly because I had £17 in dividend vouchers from my East of England Co-op card, and wanted to take advantage of the Co-op’s Sourced Locally fortnight.

Sourced Locally fortnight runs from 5 to 18 June, and the Co-op is offering a £5 meal deal of ham, eggs and potatoes from local producers, plus a voucher for £2 off a £15 spend that includes a Sourced Locally product. I’m keen to cut food miles and support local producers when it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, so I reckon Sourced Locally fortnight is A Good Thing.

Before heading off, I scanned my cupboards, fridge and freezer to see what we had, what needed using up and what could make a meal. No biggie – just meant I spotted a pack of mince in the freezer that would stretch for a couple of meals. I also registered some left over veg, including a forlorn looking red pepper and the remains of a butternut squash.

I scribbled a quick list on an envelope retrieved from the recycling basket, checked I had the vouchers in my purse, grabbed a couple of cloth bags as we headed out on the school run, and diverted to the Co-op afterwards.

 

Picture of Sourced Locally products from our East of England Co-op, including the £5 local meal deal, as part of my story of a shopping list

Sourced Locally food, including the £5 meal deal

While shopping

As I was only nipping in for a quick shop, I took a shopping basket rather than a trolley. Otherwise it’s all too easy to end up at the till with a mountain of extra this, that and the other.

I went in intending to buy extra milk, fruit, veg, picnic provisions and the £5 local meal deal. I was also hoping to pick up the odd extra ingredient to make meals from the food we already had in the house.

First stop: the reduced fruit and veg section, hoping for shorted-dated bargains. If you’re flexible rather than focused on specific items, it’s possible to save a packet with yellow-stickered food.

(Previous post with top tips on bagging yellow-stickered bargains)

Need fruit? Snap up a cut-price mango for fruit salad and smoothies. Salad happy? I was fine with short-dated little gem lettuce, rather than sticking to iceberg.

The yellow-stickered yellow pepper meant I could cross a packet of more expensive mixed peppers off my list, and carry it home to roast with the butternut squash and red pepper at the bottom of the fridge.

Spotting reduced green beans reminded me of tuna and olives at home. I could make salad nicoise by adding potatoes and eggs from the meal deal, plus salad stuff on my list.

Much like Aldi’s Super Six, the Co-op also has two or three fruit and veg on offer each week, so I went for the 69p vine tomatoes and mushrooms. The mushrooms would help stretch mince in the freezer, and be great as a pizza topping. A tin of kidney beans would also help make mince into chilli con carne.

Continuing round the store, I picked up picnic supplies including own-brand bread to make sandwiches with ham from the meal deal, plus multipack crisps on offer, grapes, strawberries and yogurt tubes.

I always try and buy a couple of big containers of milk if I’m the Co-op, as you get two for £2 rather than paying £1.49 each. Similarly with cheese, buying 250g packets of own-brand Cheddar and Red Leicester meant it cost £3 for both rather than £2 each.

The only items I bought that weren’t on my list were half-price cake decorations. I figured the chocolate vermicelli and sugar butterflies and flowers would come in handy when baking for sports day, the school summer fair and Cub camp.

Picture of all my shopping from East of England Co-op sourced Locally fortnight laid out on the table

Quick top up shop

What I bought

Ta dah here’s my shopping in glorious technicolour. I’ve listed what I bought below, but the summary is:

Full price for individual items: £28.36

Price after offers and reductions: £22.04

Price I paid, after money off and dividend vouchers: £3.04

Not bad during a money-saving month.

The shopping list in full

(Left to right, starting from the top)

Grapes, 500g, £2

Sourced Locally strawberries, 400g, £2.29

Smedley’s kidney beans, 400g tin, 35p

Sourced Locally cucumber, 69p

Semi-skimmed milk and whole milk on offer, two 2.272 litres bottles for £2 (otherwise £1.49 each)

Multipack of Walkers crisps on offer, six packets for £1

Sourced Locally mushrooms on offer, 250g, 69p

Small tomatoes on the vine on offer, 230g, 69p

Reduced price yellow-stickered flower and butterfly sugar cake decorations, 40g, 55p (originally £1.09 )

Reduced price yellow-stickered chocolate vermicelli cake decorations, 65g, 55p (originally £1.09)

Wholemeal loaf, 800g, 79p

Red Leicester cheese (250g) and medium cheddar cheese (240g) on offer, two for £3 (otherwise £2 each)

Box of 4 Sourced Locally Havensfield eggs, part of the £5 Local Meal Deal (normally 89p)

Pack of 6 Choobs, £1

Reduced price little gem lettuces, 2, 23p

Reduced price yellow-stickered green beans, 200g, 40p (originally £1.19)

Reduced price yellow-stickered mango, 54p (originally £1.60)

Reduced price yellow-stickered yellow pepper, 27p (originally 79p)

Sourced Locally Taste of Suffolk sandwich ham, 350g, part of the £5 Local Meal Deal (£2.99 normally)

Sourced Locally Fairfields Farm white potatoes, 2kg, part of the £5 Local Meal Deal (£1.44 normally)

 

I know the Co-op isn’t normally seen as a budget supermarket, but when I put this shopping list into mysupermarket.com, the total came to £28.11 at Morrisons and £26.35 at Sainsbury’s, rather than the Co-op’s £22.04 before using my vouchers. Including some yellow-stickered stuff definitely made a difference.

 

Picture of roast potatoes using Sourced Locally Fairfields farm potatoes, broccoli and mince made into bolognaise sauce

Get a load of those roasties from Fairfield Farm potatoes.

 

After shopping

I was pretty pleased with my £3.04 haul, and have been able to combine it with food we already had in the house to make the following meals.

Friday night: tuna nicoise salad

Added the last of a jar of olives and tuna from my storecupboard to potatoes, lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, green beans and eggs from the shopping trip, plus home-made salad dressing. (Pic at the top of this post)

Saturday picnic lunch

I packed ham sandwiches, crisps, yogurt tubes, grapes and some of the strawberries, and took drinks from our cupboard. I left a couple of packets of crisps at home, for a snack to take after swimming lessons.

Saturday evening snack

Home late from our day trip to London, so just a quick snack of cheese on toast, with strawberry and mango smoothies.

Sunday evening: mince with roast potatoes and broccoli

I made bolognaise sauce using the packet of mince retrieved from the freezer, and raided our cupboards for carrots, onion, celery, stock cubes, Worcestershire sauce, tomato puree and a glug of wine. In an unusual fit of organisation, I also removed a portion, added mushrooms, kidney beans and chilli powder, and made chilli con carne for another night.

We actually ate the bologanise sauce with roast potatoes from the meal deal, rather than pasta (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it). While the oven was on for roast potatoes, I roasted the yellow-stickered yellow pepper with the forlorn red pepper and squash from the back of the fridge, and a couple of onions and garlic cloves.

Monday evening: goats cheese and roasted veg with cous cous

As I’d roasted the veg the night before, I could make a super quick meal with cous cous and the remains of a packet of goats cheese. (Boiled eggs and soldiers for any recalcitrant children)

Tuesday evening: chilli con carne, rice and green beans

I only had to cook rice and the last of the green beans, to add to the chilli con carne made on Sunday. The children aren’t keen on spicy food, so I did them quesadillas with salad, using some of the Sourced Locally ham and cheese with tortilla wraps we already had.

Since then, the ham has disappeared into lunch time sandwiches, and the last of the potatoes went into vegetable soup for a speedy lunch after sports day.

A week later, and the only ingredients I have left are some cheese and mushrooms reserved for Friday night pizza toppings, plus the cake decorations. Sure, we’ve had to buy some extra food since, but at least nothing from my Co-op trip has been wasted.

Now over to you – any tips for making the most of food you already have in the house? Or cutting the cost of top up shops? I’d love to hear, so do share your ideas in the comments.

13 Comments

  1. Melanie
    June 16, 2017 / 7:10 pm

    Wow. That’s impressive. All wholesome food too. Reminds me to pop to the co op a bit more too especially with locally sourced products.

    • Faith
      June 17, 2017 / 8:01 am

      Worth seeing what your local Co-op stocks. I’m really impressed by all the work East of England Co-op do with local suppliers on the Sourced Locally range. Enjoyed meeting some of the producers when I went to the Co-op Annual Members Meeting, and heard about the resources that get ploughed back into the local economy, and how it cuts food miles and distribution journeys.

  2. June 16, 2017 / 7:37 pm

    Sounds like you had an absolutely fantastic load of meals and £3! Bargain!

    • Faith
      June 17, 2017 / 7:50 am

      Thanks Katy! Surprised myself when I actually wrote all the meals down.

  3. thisissixty.blog
    June 16, 2017 / 10:03 pm

    What an interesting insight. I like to glance into other people’s trollies and wonder what they are planning! For the most part, it seems they just have a mishmash of unconnected items and piles of ready meals. I am definitely guilty of not always planning but in May and June I have committed to using up the contents of my over stocked freezer and cupboards and only buying the bits and pieces needed, such as fruit and veg. Eloise

    • Faith
      June 17, 2017 / 7:51 am

      Glad you like looking at other people’s trollies too! Good luck with using up the contents of your freezer and cupboards. Only buying the extras can really make a massive difference to your food bills, would love to hear how you get on.

  4. Rebecca
    June 17, 2017 / 6:32 am

    Well done, you! Amazing shopping and your meals were fantastic. As we are leaving for vacation and are trying not to shop, our meals have been all about clearing the refrigerator. Two nights ago, my husband grilled pizzas so we could use up lots of vegetable odds and ends. Last night we used up a packet of mince (I used lentils for mine) to make tacos, along with the last bit of lettuce, some chopped yellow pepper from pizza night, black olives and salsa. Then tonight, I used the last two peppers and leftover corn and black olives as well as beans and quinoa from my freezer to make stuffed Mexican peppers. We’ll use the leftover filling to make a few burritos tomorrow. All I have left in my perishable drawer is a sad little turnip that I bought on accident because I thought it was a watermelon radish! Oh, and a handful of Brussels sprouts. Any ideas?

    • Faith
      June 17, 2017 / 7:54 am

      Ooooh like the sound of your taco mix, I’ll have to experiment with adding lentils to mince too. I’ve chopped and stir fried Brussels sprouts before, so they’re crisp rather than boiled soggy. Never tried turnip – think I’d probably add it to veg soup, or boil and mash with potatoes and plenty of butter.

      • Sue
        June 22, 2017 / 11:05 am

        How about grating it and adding to a casserole

  5. Sue
    June 22, 2017 / 11:04 am

    Well done! That’s an amazing shop.
    When our children were small I used to add a handful of oats to 1lb of mince to stretch it.
    For a really quick, lazy meal we sometimes have left over curry or chilli con carne on toast.
    I always fry leftover salad in a tiny amount of butter to use as a green vegetable or add it to a casserole or risotto.
    At present I’m keeping a log of monthly food spending. It’s a good way of shocking me into watching the cost. I’m also practicing “no spend” days and using up things in the freezer and cupboards. Sue

    • June 22, 2017 / 11:43 am

      Good tip about the oats, I must try that. Favourite story from my childhood is a family friend with a couple of hulking teenage sons, who got caught trying to pad out apple crumble with…cabbage. Think oats and mince would be much more palatable! Good luck with your monthly log & no spend days.

      • Sue
        June 22, 2017 / 7:11 pm

        Love the story about the apple crumble.
        One of our sons aged about 15 often made a tin of Yorkshire pudding if he wanted a late night snack.one night there were no eggs so he used Strawberry Jam instead! Fortunately the rest of us weren’t required to sample it. He said it was “different”!
        Sue

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