I seem to have spent a ton of money on food in May, so reckon I need to spend June eating the contents of the cupboards, fridge and freezer.
Perhaps it was a reaction to finishing Live Below the Line, or becoming all sociable and having people to stay, or maybe the lure of 25% off offers and discount vouchers tempting me to stock up on wine.
On the plus side, I do now have quite a lot of food lurking in my cupboards, and almost overflowing from the freezer.
So I think it’s about time we actually ate some of the food we already have, rather than buying loads more. We will need some extra fresh stuff, like fruit, veg and milk, so I’m intending to use a Morrisons voucher for £6 off when spending £40, and the challenge will be to see how long we can then stagger through June.
I therefore spent a chunk of this morning doing a stock check, and making a list of all the food in the house.
It’s something I do from time to time, to work out what gaps need filling, and perhaps more importantly what needs using up. Forgotten ingredients will inspire me to try recipes we haven’t eaten for ages, or search for recipes where I’m lacking inspiration.
If you’re strapped for cash, a stock check will help you work out meals based on what you have, so you only need to buy top up ingredients.
I potter around making three different lists at the same time:
1) the food I have
2) meal ideas based on that food
3) shopping list for any extra ingredients needed
I find that if I don’t make a note of meal ideas or missing stuff while I’m rootling around in the kitchen, then I forget it all by the end. Once I’ve got the list of food in the house, I can then look up any extra recipes and do a proper meal plan. That’s the theory, anyway…
When doing a stock take, I go through the kitchen shelf by shelf, putting the food on a tray and then replacing it once I’ve written it on the list. I do the same thing for the fridge and freezer, shutting the door while I do each shelf or drawer to keep the cold in. It’s a good chance to wipe down the shelves, removing any spills or sticky patches as I go along (golden syrup, I’m looking at you).
In the process I discover leftovers that need using up, and leftovers that are now so far gone they can only go in the bin. It reminded me to freeze ingredients like short-dated cream that won’t get used before they go over.
I also discovered the missing jar of mango chutney (but only after buying a replacement) and marvelled at how I’d ended up with quite so many tins of tomatoes, porridge oats and different kinds of flour. If you’re on a tight budget, a regular stock take will help avoid buying duplicates of food you already have.
So just in case anyone else is also curious about the contents of kitchen cupboards (and I’m willing to acknowledge it might be a small field), I took some photos of my own kitchen on the last day of May.
This will be easy, I thought. I only have one food cupboard:
|Main food cupboard
Bottom left has oil, vinegar and assorted bottles of flavouring (condiments?)
Bottom right is a carb-fest of pasta, noodles, rice, cous cous and so on.
Middle left is tin city and middle right is baking ingredients like flour and sugar.
The top almost unreachable shelves have dried stuff like lentils, split peas and nuts on the left and fancy baking stuff on the right. Cake sprinkles and cooking chocolate are stashed in the silver tin, in a an attempt to stop the younger generation mountaineering up the worktop in search of sweets.
Plus the fridge freezer:
|The “big fridge”. Just don’t tell it about the mahoosive American ones.
Dairy products and berries at the top (again the logic is all about keeping small children away from the food they covet the most), then herbs, cooked meat and cheese in the middle, veg and leftovers on the bottom shelf, salad veg in the drawers and bottles of water in the slidey bit at the bottom.
Milk, fruit juice, butter and assorted jars live in the door.
Top flap down section: ice packs and processed food like pizza, fishfingers, ice cream and ice pops
Top drawer is frozen veg, frozen fruit and boxes of long forgotten leftovers. Some bread rolls have snuck in there too.
Middle drawer is bread in a myriad of forms
Bottom drawer is meat, fish and cheese.
But then there’s the little under the counter fridge:
|The small fridge which handily has squash next to beer, and gin next to milk
It’s mostly drinks, plus any extra leftovers and veg that won’t fit in the big fridge. There’s even some yogurt cheese in process on the shelf above the veg drawer.
And then there’s the stash of herbs and spices of varying ages and origins:
|Economic decline in one set of spices.
Live Below the Line definitely made me realise that if you can afford to invest in some herbs, spices and other flavours, you can make basic ingredients taste a million times better.
Plus we keep cereal, jam and fruit handy for breakfast time:
|Shedloads of oats. Ideas other than porridge, pancakes and flapjack gratefully received.
and then we also keep the tea and coffee in the cupboard above the kettle, near the mugs:
|Tins of teabags ahoy. And coffee, if you’re that way inclined.
and actually I do keep a few jars on the mantelpiece:
|Giant couscous, raisins, vanilla sugar, spaghetti that’s too tall for the cupboard
And of course the potatoes and onions normally live in cloth bags under the counter where it’s dark and cool:
|Letting the potatoes and onions see the light of day
Then just when I thought I’d finally finished, I remembered the other food hidden in the cleaning cupboard, like crisps and spare boxes of cereal bought on offer
|The secret stash of crisps, biscuits and the cereal with highly desirable monster magnets.
So all in all, looks like we do have quite a lot of food to feed a family of four.
What do your cupboard looks like? Along Mother Hubbard lines, or enough to stock a small supermarket?
Next step: meal plan and shopping list.
The Live Below the Line campaign continues until 30 June, if you might consider supporting my efforts to feed myself on £1 a day for 5 days from 26 to 30 April by donating to Unicef, the world’s leading organisation for children.
This is the link to my fundraising page: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/muchmorewithless