Bargain Betty

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Bargain Betty’s pantry project

July16

One of the best ways to cut your grocery bill, at least in the short term is to simply not go shopping.  As an exercise I’m doing just that. I’m going to miss my next two shopping excursions and eat the food from my cupboards and freezer.  I’m feeling quite nervous about it and keep worrying about running out of all sorts of things.

Most of us hoard food – it’s natural human behaviour. In reality most of us wouldn’t starve if we cut out the weekly shop for a couple of weeks.  I spend around $180 – $200 a week on food.  I don’t know exactly because I do one weekly shop at the supermarket, but buy meat and vegetables elsewhere.

Update: Monday 19th July: It’s astounding how scary the idea of not shopping for food is. I keep worrying I’m not going to be able to find something to eat for dinner. Yet my cupboard and freezer is still packed with food.  That natural human urge to hoard food is really hard to fight against. I’m still wondering about what “basics” are and whether I should stock up on them. I’ve decided that fruit and milk are necessities. But I can’t get my head around whether eggs are.  I can make cakes and biscuits with eggs for the kids lunchboxes.

Update: Tuesday 20th July: My cupboards are full enough to survive a nuclear winter. I’m not one to throw food away. But when non-perishables are on sale I tend to buy up large.  At the moment this exercise is more about eating down the oversupply of various foods. Having said that, I keep having a panic about not going shopping. Tonight is my usual supermarket night. I’m only going to get milk.  I originally decided that milk and fruit were the only basics I would top up during this exercise. I don’t want my children going without fruit.  I realise having seen the first comment from a reader that toilet paper is an essential.  Somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind I remember using newspaper when toilet paper ran out at home. Perhaps my mother didn’t want to go shopping. I’m not sure how 21st century children would cope if given newspaper. I’m still toying with the idea of whether eggs are basics.  I can do without them. But as we run out of snacks, I might need them for baking.  Butter is also an essential for baking, so may be replaced. I don’t, however, want to fool myself.  I came across this:

Mastercheap: the $25 shopping list

As the exercise unfolds, I’ll add more to this blog. All comments appreciated.

Wednesday July 21: I’m not going to update this every day. But last night was shopping night (Tuesdays).  It was great to nip into the supermarket and only come out with milk and bananas.  There were only two of us for dinner last night, so I didn’t “cook”.  Maia had instant noodles (despite my fears that I might be causing her long term nutruitional damage by feeding her something like that 🙂 ).  I steamed some vegetables and pulled out a Gits brand Paneer Tikka Masala package from the pantry. I often buy Gits brand products from Moshims one of my regular grocery shopping haunts.  That reduced the pantry food by a minute amount.

Thursday July 22: My neighbour just turned up with some parsley and eggs (both from his garden/free range chickens). I was a little concerned that this is cheating. But he reckons it’s “foraging” which is okay. I would usually have parsley in the garden, but my guinea pigs ate it – along with anything except for the Rosemary in my veggie/herb garden. Must fence it off….

Friday July 22: Came across my first real problem last night.  I was baking a “plate” for an event I was going to and found to my horror that I had less than 1 cup of icing sugar for the chocolate icing.  My initial reaction was to send Maia across the road to “borrow” a cup of icing sugar. But I stopped and thought and managed to extend the icing by adding Nutella.  I was wondering later if it’s possible to make a peanut butter icing by adding sugar syrup and cocoa. I discover this morning that there are plenty of such recipes. See http://tinyurl.com/29suxdx I have two containers of peanut butter, so could have done this.  It just shows how easy it is to be resourceful.
Monday July 26: We’re six days overdue for shopping and there is remarkably very little on the shopping list. I always write things on when we run out of them. Currently the list is:

  • Chocolate Whiz (the kids like it and the last bottle lasted months  – although it definitely isn’t an “essential”)
  • Icing sugar
  • Puy Lentils (to make mince go further)
  • Lamb neck chops (for a recipe recommended by a friend)
  • Miso soup (I often have this for a snack when I’m working from home)
  • Paprika
  • Tinned tomatoes (Yikes. But I still have tins of Watties tomato soup, which could be used in place of tinned tomatoes, and also tomato paste – lots of it)
  • Cheese.

It’s this last item cheese, which is vexing me. I still have 1/3rd of a block of Parmesan, which can be used in place of cheddar. But I’m not sure what’s going to happen on Friday.  Friday is pizza night in our household.

I’m wondering whether I’m allowed to buy one semi-essential item a week – such as cheese, butter, or vegetables? Is this cheating I ask myself?  I’m not sure.

Wednesday July 28: Missed my second week’s shop last night. I only bought the essentials of: 5L of milk and a bag of apples ($2.99 for 2kg, which wasn’t bad. I rarely buy fruit in the supermarket as it is much cheaper at Simply Fresh and other such fruit marts).  I made the decision to buy one “semi-essential”.  That was cheese.  I only bought this because Friday night is pizza night and it’s pretty difficult to have pizza without cheese. I know it’s possible. But I’m not sure what the children would think.  Maybe this Friday I’ll make one of the pizzas with no cheese and find out.

Late last week food writer Virgil Evetts came over and we emptied my cupboards, fridge and freezer of food and took an inventory. He will be writing next week on www.foodlovers.co.nz about the food in my pantry and what could be done with it.  Virgil has promised me his Baked Bean Cassoulet recipe. Personally I view baked beans (and yoghurt as well) as kiddie-food and don’t particularly like them.  But this is a great way to make them into a family meal.

I’ve actually been pretty creative myself.  We have a cup-cake maker (lots of fun for the kids and I bought it with Fly Buys points) and I’ve been making cup cakes for afternoon tea.  On the first day instead of using milk, I use the rest of a chocolate mousse that the kids wouldn’t eat.  I’m running short of butter and decided to weigh out oil, instead of using up the precious butter.

Friday July 30: I’ve now missed three weeks of shopping.   Cooking  is starting to get a little challenging. I wanted to make some ginger icing last night for my Weetbix ginger slice, which we had for pudding last night. I ran out of icing sugar last week. Instead I used the remainder of my brown sugar.  That worked well. One of the challenges that I hadn’t mentioned previously is that I have a member of the extended whanau living with me. I don’t feel that she should suffer from my challenge. So I’ve been trying to ensure she is well fed – hence the dessert last night. We’re long out of ice cream, which is the usual dessert around here. I’m also baking bread – although we still have Vogels in the freezer. I will be out of vegetables (fresh and frozen) by week 4, which might mean a mini shop on Tuesday. Even so, I can see the experiment lasting another two to three weeks.

Monday August 2: it’s hard to believe that I’m still going strong – having missed 3 weeks grocery shopping. I’ve been adapting well to my creative dinners.  On Saturday I cooked up some yellow split peas I had. Three-quarters of the cooked split peas went into the freezer to make dahl sometime this week. The remainder were cooked into one of my home-made lasagnes (I make the pasta myself, it’s easy) along with the very last of the premium mince.  I made ricotta cheese from1L of milk, and used a pottle of Greek Yoghurt instead of white sauce.  It went down well. Out of salad – except for a very small amount of mesculin in the garden, I grated carrot as an accompaniment.

Last night we had pasta again. I still had one pack of bought fresh Tortellini.  It wasn’t enough for three adults and I poked around the fridge/freezer for a little while wondering what extras I could put in (eg bacon, chorizo, hot dog sausages).  In the end I chopped up two onions, and added some Aria brand lamb strips, grated cheese and almost the last of my sour cream.  It was a little of an odd mix – Chicken Tortellini with lamb strips.   It tasted quite good.   I nearly added half a can of pineapple, which was in the freezer. But my friend the chef called just as I was about to defrost it and completely freaked out. Ironically my dinner guests said they would have liked pineapple in it.

I’ve been knocking all sorts of deserts together – using whatever ingredients I still have in the baking cupboard. Sometimes it’s biscuits or slices. I’ve also managed to make some hot desserts.  I’ve got the ingredients to make this (with a little chopping and changing) : http://www.weetbix.co.nz/apricot-dessert-slice.aspx.  We also have a recipe for “little puddings” from the Edmonds Children’s Cook Box, which we’ll make sometime this week.

Supermarket night is tomorrow night. I’ve decided to add a couple of extra items to this week’s absolute essentials. Otherwise I’ll be missing yet another supermarket shop. My 4th. Tomorrow I’m going to buy milk, eggs, one green veg (I’m out of fresh and frozen), and something to make salad with. That’s double what I have been buying.  If it was only me I’d do without the veg and eggs, for the sake of the experiment.  Said chef is emailing me a recipe for egg free cake (for either lunch boxes or dessert). But I’m actually starting to run short of cooking oil, which could prove a problem.

Interestingly, even with no shopping I’ve managed to give food away twice in the past week- to people/organisations that needed it.  I couldn’t have imagined being able to do that after three weeks of no shopping.  As an aside, even well off areas such as the one I live in have food banks, which rely on ordinary people to make donations.

Thursday August 5.

My challenge is still going strong – although I’ve topped up on a few fresh items (salad and one head of broccoli).  My friend Virgil Evetts has written his take on my pantry challenge over at Foodlovers.co.nz.  Take a look and please come back and post here. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I’m actually starting to get over the psychological need to food shop.  I realise that I can still cook from what I have. I’ve only bought fruit and  veg (small amounts) so that we remain healthy. To be honest, if an earthquake hit we could do without these for a few weeks if need be. But I’m not taking the challenge to that extreme.

I should have added that I had a brainwave a few nights back and mixed the lamb strips in with some chicken tortellini, along with sour cream and a few other ingredients. It turned out to be a real hit – even if it was a strange mix. I was about to put some tinned pineapple in it when my friend the chef called by coincidence and persuaded me against it. Oddly enough my two guests for dinner that night said they would have quite liked pineapple in the mix.

Update:  Wednesday August 11. The experiment is over.  I’ve done half a shop.  We got down to the point where I had no flour (incl wholemeal and rye), no butter, no veg, no baking powder, no tomato (fresh or canned), no potatoes, and no meat.  I can honestly say that we could have survived another two weeks with no shopping and had it just been me and the kids (not a boarder as well) I may well have continued eating our way through bland pasta and baked beans.  It astounded me that I could miss four scheduled supermarket shops four weeks in a row and still produce well rounded meals. In fact in some ways we ate better because I did a lot of baking.  It’s also liberating not to have my cupboards and freezer so packed full of food.  I’m going to start shopping fortnightly instead of weekly (that was an improvement made two years ago, before which I went when I felt like it). I may even move my main shop to monthly and do it online.  It will be interesting over the next week to see how the small amount of supplies I’ve bought affect the way we eat.  I’d still like to finish eating down the remainder of the basics, which I haven’t replenished for five weeks, such as: oats, dried spaghetti and a small amount of Rizzoni, tinned baked beans and tinned tomato soup, two maggi soup packets, and about eight two litre plastic packs of home pickled olives. 🙂

I still have to try out Virgil Evetts baked-bean cassoulet recipe, which I’m really looking forward to. I haven’t been able to because we ate the chorizo and bacon up before he gave me the recipe.  Here’s the recipe:

Virgil’s baked bean cassoulet recipe:

Ingredients
2 tins baked beans
4 cups hot stock (chicken/beef)
Bacon
Kransky-roughly chopped
Chorizo- roughly chopped
1 onion-finely chopped
3 cloves garlic crushed
2 tablespoon butter/margarine
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon dried sage Or 3 fresh sage leaves
Vegetable oil
Breadcrumbs
Method
Preheat oven to 200c
Sauté the bacon and sausages in 1 tablespoon of the butter/margarine and a little oil until browned. Add onion garlic and herbs, sauté until soft and fragrant. Add beans and stir until simmering.
Now add the stock. Bring to the boil and reduce to a low simmer. Stir frequently until reduced and thickened. Use a wooden spoon or potato masher to crush some of the beans. This greatly improves the texture of the sauce.
Adjust seasoning to taste.
Transfer to a suitable oven dish, sprinkle liberally with breadcrumbs and stud with little knobs of butter/margarine. Bake until golden and sizzling or stir in crust and add more breadcrumbs and butter/margarine and bake again.
Serve with crusty bread and plenty of rough wine.

34 Comments to

“Bargain Betty’s pantry project”

  1. On July 19th, 2010 at 2:01 pm Genie Says:

    We shop every 2-3 weeks at the supermarket and I buy meat and vegies from a local shop once every few days. We generally wait until we have completely run out of 1 vital thing (like toilet paper) before we relent and go to the supermarket. There are plenty of days where I “make do”. I don’t think we could make do for more than a week though.

  2. On July 20th, 2010 at 4:07 pm cedar51 Says:

    I am home alone, woman alone, no car.

    I shop approx once a month, onliine grocery shopping so my chest freezer and my fridge/freezer usually look relatively well stocked in the first week.

    And my pantry cupboards resemble a supermarket shelving unit with quite a number of things 3/4 deep.

    Once upon a time, I shopped alternate days because even though some items like toilet rolls are not heavy they are bulky – now I buy the biggest package because the nice courier is going to cart it all up to the front door…

    I always seem to make a mistake and get something unplanned, usually size. I always seem to not be able to make up on my mind on one item…SO I DO top-up shopping that usually involves a couple of items.

    I actually hate my closest walking distance supermarket because since I have lived here it has been rebranded 3x! Now it’s like a damn cattle market…the new one a few blocks away doesn’t seem to look any better in my humblest opinion

    Currently my ground coffee supply is running out as are the toilet rolls so probably early next week, maybe Sunday night I will do a ‘computerised’ shop.

  3. On July 20th, 2010 at 6:19 pm Pip Says:

    Basics for me are definitely fresh fruit, milk, bread, vegetables (frozen ones count I guess), and toilet paper (I too have used newspaper, swore never to do this again if I can possibly help it!)
    It’s much trickier to do this when you have kids and school lunches to sort out. I agree re baking, but not to eggs being a necessity – flour/baking powder more common.
    This has really got me thinking – good on you for doing it, I’ll be following you closely (but not popping in for a cuppa and piece of cake!)
    Tea bags/coffee – they’d be a must for me.

  4. On July 20th, 2010 at 6:57 pm katherine Wilson Says:

    A really interesting exercise. We sometimes buy the same thing over and over again and often shop without checking the cupboards first which doesn’t help. I often find I can make a reasonably interesting meal out of a selection of rather unappealing left overs but you sometimes have to alter your view of what a meal is going to comprise. An interesting future experiment would be to only buy things produced in your own country (easier in NZ than the UK I expect) or food grown/produced within a 30 mile radius.

  5. On July 20th, 2010 at 7:44 pm moana Says:

    Great exercise, Bargain Betty! I read a budgeting tip once that advised going shopping a day later than you usually would, the idea being that you can almost always rustle up something from what you have in the fridge and pantry. I tend to top up every couple of days on fresh veg, fruit, bread and milk. Regarding eggs: we could easily get by on a dozen a month for baking, but use egg meals in place of meat meals at least once a week, so eggs are definitely on our basics list. One of my own kids recently suggested that I didn’t need to go shopping, and that we should just eat everything that’s in the cupboard. She’s right – and it’s amazing what you come across at the back of the cupboard and the bottom of the freezer!

  6. On July 20th, 2010 at 9:53 pm Christiane Wiezorke Says:

    Great project! I was actually thinking of doing the very same thing during the weeks before we leave for our summer holiday. The freezer’s full, pasta always goes in stock when it’s bargain price, so do veg tins and fruit tins – just in case the “real” thing might not be available…. (as if…). I actually mostly shop groceries FRI mornings as I don’t work then and both kids are looked after in school and nursery (heaven!). Before I go I look through the miles of paper screaming the bargains at us every week and decide which supermarket gets my money that week.
    Yoghurts for the muesli, milk (we average 8 litres/week) and butter plus fresh cold meet/sausage/cheese/veggies/fruit/bread we couldn’t really go without, I think. But for the rest there’s loads and loads of stuff that really needed to be eaten up (cherries frozen last summer in order to cook jam…, likewise pumpkin dices frozen to be made into stews – tons of those, home cooked chicken broth to be used for further stews, etc etc). Like Diana I am not so sure about the eggs – to buy or not to buy 🙂

    On the food side I guess we can make do for about a week, not really so on the drugstore side – one of our youngsters is still in nappies, so those need to be restocked regularly as do the ‘face wiper’ tissues in handy carry along boxes for in the car and on the pushchair and also for any bag we use… But on th eother hand – I guess I am good for another year of two washing machine cycle a day powder wise……. dirty laundry wise anyway with two boys.

    So – looking forward to how your experiment will be going – I’ll keep you posted on my experience here in Germany.

  7. On July 20th, 2010 at 10:57 pm fiona body Says:

    Ok! Diana and I have had this conversation many times, but it is interesting to find out how other people shop, the way they shop, method of shopping and reasons they shop the way they do. I have two growing daughters aged 7 and 8 and I do our grocery shopping every fortnight. Our grocery bill every fortnight for a family of four is between $200 and $260. We don’t often buy in bulk because a lot of it goes to waste quite quickly. Our meat is purchased from the mad butcher, and we do get some very nice joints of beef, lamb and chicken, (we divide the meat up into batches and freeze, so we have enough to see us through the next fortnight) our fruit and veg are purchased from a local grocers in Belmont any remaining friut is used in cakes, puddings etc, and the rest of our groceries from New World, mainly because of convienence. We make our own bread, and we do our own baking. At times it’s been a struggle but you make do with what you’ve got making sure you’re stocked up with the basics flour, eggs, milk, butter, oils, pasta, rice. If one’s larder is stocked well, then you’ll never run out. We always eat well, the girls are never hungry, and nothing goes to waste!

  8. On July 21st, 2010 at 9:05 am moana Says:

    I read a budgeting tip that advised you always to shop a day later than you feel you need to, the idea being that you can always rustle up a few meals from existing supplies. It’s amazing what you find (that you’ve forgotten about) at the back of cupboards and the bottom of freezers. Eggs – for us, a dozen a month if only for baking, but a dozen a week if using eggs as a meat-replacement meal. Will be interested to see how long you can hold out – I don’t think I could get by without fresh veg, fruit, milk and bread every couple of days.

  9. On July 21st, 2010 at 7:13 pm Christiane Wiezorke Says:

    Another thought that came up when discussing your project with friends (see – you have an international audience here – Italianand French colleagues, Columbian intern and Argentinian friend and neighbour plus a lot of German colleagues) –>
    in summary we are sure that
    – it helps never to go shopping on an empty stomach
    – always have a list written up during the week and checking it again against the fridge and freezer contents — and DON’T buy a thing that’s not on the list
    – read the bargain price flyers and shop where most of the stuff you need is cheap that week
    – try to avoid taking your children with you…
    – buy at the fruit and veggie market where the farmers sell their produce – a bit mire expensive but fresh from the fields

  10. On July 21st, 2010 at 7:42 pm Bargain Betty Says:

    – it helps never to go shopping on an empty stomach

    I always have a list, so this one doesn’t usually affect me.

    – always have a list written up during the week and checking it again against the fridge and freezer contents — and DON’T buy a thing that’s not on the list

    I’m all for this one.

    – read the bargain price flyers and shop where most of the stuff you need is cheap that week

    Probably good for most people. But in Devonport we’re a bit of a captive audience. It costs too much in time and petrol to go anywhere other than Third World Devonport (AKA New World). I am constantly considering online shopping, but that restricts me to Foodtown. Oh well….

    – try to avoid taking your children with you…

    🙂 I take mine with me and they have to go and get items from the list. They’re trained to know that Pams is almost certainly cheaper than other brands. But they actually do the maths. Not bad for 7 & 9. Maia even came back one day with a double pack of Trident Udon noodles because they worked out cheaper per pack. A chip off the old block…

    – buy at the fruit and veggie market where the farmers sell their produce – a bit mire expensive but fresh from the fields

    Yes, round here that’s the Takapuna market, which I sometimes go to. I also buy vegetables at Simply Fresh in Northcote whenever possible. The fruit and veg shop in Belmont isn’t a bad alternative. Farmers markets here tend to be something trendy, with prices jacked up to suit. But local markets such as Takapuna, Avondale and Otara are good. (Wesley has a good one as well).

    Keep the comments coming.

  11. On July 21st, 2010 at 7:45 pm Bargain Betty Says:

    Bottom of the freezer supplied the mince for tonight’s tacos. It had been left over from bolognaise a few weeks back. It was a very enjoyable meal. I didn’t have any lettuce, but have some mixed salad growing in a bucket outside. We grated cheese, carrots, and had chopped cucumber as well.

  12. On July 21st, 2010 at 7:46 pm Bargain Betty Says:

    The local one would be an interesting exercise. But as you say. Not difficult in New Zealand. We produce all basics such as meat, dairy, fruit, veg, etc. The labelling here isn’t as good as in the UK. Sometimes stuff appears to be NZ-produced, but is only packaged here.

  13. On July 21st, 2010 at 7:48 pm Bargain Betty Says:

    Yes. I was wondering this afternoon what will happen when I run out of tea/coffee. Actually I’m more worried that the Rooibos and Camomile will run out. I’ve only got about eight bags left. What happens then is that I drink caffeinated tea instead, which I don’t really want to do becuase of its addictive powers. I do have some Inka. But I tend to find that I want Rooibos or Camomile when I would otherwise want a tea, and Inka when I would otherwise want a coffee.

  14. On July 21st, 2010 at 7:50 pm Bargain Betty Says:

    I can cope with only buying meat once a month or so. I tend to go to the Mad Butcher and buy what’s on special (which means we have variation). Sometimes Foodtown has some great markdowns, which are much better than the Mad Butcher’s prices. But I rarely call in at Foodtown. When I’ve been there it’s really difficult to get the freezer closed. Interestingly when I lived in the UK I bought a £10 spare freezer, which I filled with sale items such as bread. Here you don’t get such good deals on fresh loaves from the deli and other end of day products.

  15. On July 21st, 2010 at 7:52 pm Bargain Betty Says:

    Do you ever go to Foodtown? They have some great end of the day meat specials. However Foodtown’s premium mince isn’t as nice as the premium mince from New World and the Mad Butcher. Foodtown’s has a bit of a fatty flavour in my humble opinion.

  16. On July 22nd, 2010 at 11:32 pm moana Says:

    Did you hear on National Radio recently the interview with the bloke from Oz who was trying to eat only $2 of food per day. He allowed himself one piece of fruit a day, oats for breakfast, dahl or rice for lunch and vegetable soup for dinner. Dried beans – extremely cheap, though I’ve never been able to make anything I really loved from them! My mother went through a phase of cooking with barley, saying it was incredibly cheap and nutritious. Vegetable soup with barley is definitely one of my easiest, cheapest and most nutritious winter standbys. Though a bacon hock or bacon bones definitely lifts it out of ho-hum territory. I heard a New World fresh produce manager talking to a colleague recently, saying that it was rubbish that people couldn’t afford to eat healthily. he pointed out the special: carrots 99c/kilo and said ‘carrot soup’. His colleague roared with laughter, but he was perfectly serious. Our New World regularly discounts salad bags to $1 (typically from $3.99) when they are a day from their use-by date. I buy and freeze them – they’re ideal to chuck into soups, stir-fries, mince-based meals and stews.

  17. On July 23rd, 2010 at 8:55 am Bargain Betty Says:

    I’ve got a friend who more or less lives on dahl. Partially for cost reasons, but mainly because he wants to leave a small footprint on the world and this is one way he sees of doing it.

    Don’t you find bacon hocks expensive? I buy them from time to time to add to Feijoada, which we eat fairly regularly because we like it (rather than it being cheap). But the cost always horifies me for what you get. FYI: http://tinyurl.com/2cxzhgh

    Good tip about freezing the salad bags. I’ve not heard that one before. The kids complained recently when I put salad into a stew. One of the leaves had a strange mustard-y taste that sort of wrecked the stew. But it’s obviously worth trying again. Thanks for that tip.

  18. On July 23rd, 2010 at 8:59 am Bargain Betty Says:

    I was a bit worried I’d be “caught” in the supermarket last night. 🙂 Yes, I was there at closing time. But I wasn’t buying food. Glengarry’s was closed and I needed to buy a bottle of wine as I have a work colleague coming over this evening to discuss various things and she thought it would be nice to do it over a glass of wine. I believe in only buying alcohol for special occasions:
    http://www.bargainbetty.co.nz/2010/06/14/the-cost-of-alcohol/
    I had to say I found myself about to browse the meat section to see what was on sale. But I stopped myself in my tracks.

  19. On July 23rd, 2010 at 9:27 am cedar51 Says:

    Lettuce doesn’t freeze very well – or is about putting the whole unopened bag in the freezer (a previous male flatmate put my opened bag of lettuce in the freezer once – it was not a good day for him when I found it!)

  20. On July 23rd, 2010 at 2:13 pm moana Says:

    Freeze!!! Before anybody goes chucking bags of lettuce in the freezer … Sorry, I meant to say that I buy the bags of coleslaw, broccoslaw or herbslaw, also the baby spinach (but I haven’t tried to freeze that – I just use it that night or the next day). I freeze the slaws. I don’t buy the discounted lettuces/salad mixes, although I have chucked leftover salad in soup before when feeling particularly zealous. On soup: chefs are notoriously budget-conscious. I read that even the likes of Gordon Ramsay use ends of celery, carrot PEEL, and other veg peel and offcuts like brocoli stalks to make stock. If celery is on special, I buy 2, chop off the bulbs and leafy ends and chuck them in the freezer for soup. We eat the sticks raw or in stir-fries or casseroles.

  21. On July 23rd, 2010 at 2:23 pm moana Says:

    I once stayed for a week at a cooking school in the alps. The food was gourmet, delicious and varied, but I spent one morning in the kitchen and was truly shocked at how so much of the food was created basically from leftovers. e.g. a starter was accompanied by anchovy toast – which was thinly sliced vogel-style toast drizzled with the oil from a jar of anchovies. There was a 5-cheese dip … basically leftover hard bits of old cheeses from the nightly cheese boards, whizzed up with some kind of alcohol, cream (I think it was the dregs of schnapps from the bottom of a bottle) and a bit of spring onion green added. Preserved mandarins – a very large jar of fruit, to which the last drops from every bottle of alcohol were added each night. Probably not even legal – but certainly inspirational!!!

  22. On July 23rd, 2010 at 3:19 pm cedar51 Says:

    oh thanks moana on the ‘salad storage’ – I think the spinach might do the same things as lettuce – go crispier or soggier depending on the status…

  23. On July 31st, 2010 at 9:07 am pennywise Says:

    Three weeks! I am impressed. Don’t think I could last that long and i admire your creativity.

  24. On August 2nd, 2010 at 2:00 pm cedar51 Says:

    Well Bargain Betty, you are doing very well with your experiment but it looks to me as though your pantry had a lot more things in to start with…whereas I am on a bit of a fixed budget and my previous clear out the pantry/freezer means I’m already quite ‘lean’ in certain areas.

    I did a online grocery shop on Friday night about 9pm and the courier bought it the next day. I got free delivery because I got sent a coupon to use!

    Of course, I forgot completely a couple of things – one thing that is completely out but is not really a food item; the other thing still got a lot left but it won’t last a month!

    there were a few things that I normally get everytime but I had taken up a big special offer a month ago & I still had enough.

    I don’t home-make alot of things because of my current circumstances…but occasionally I get something baked which I then slice/freeze (I don’t have anyone else helping me ‘eat’ things) 🙂

  25. On August 2nd, 2010 at 4:42 pm katherine Wilson Says:

    Really enjoying and interested in your blog diana. My appetite for invention would have gone in about week two I think! Do you know how much you have saved given that your first ‘regular’ shop is going to have to restock a lot of cupboard items? Also, do you think it has changed the way that you think about putting a meal together for your family?

  26. On August 4th, 2010 at 8:35 am Pip Says:

    You constantly amaze me with your inventiveness re meals and recipes and using alternatives to the usual ingredients. I know for a fact I couldn’t do what you’re doing. I keep wanting you to go buy more fresh stuff, especially fruit and veggies! And I agree with a previous reader who noticed you certainly had a lot in your pantry to start with, but having said that I’m sure I should be using far more of what’s in there rather than just stocking up for my “just-in-case” days! Good on you – how much longer will you carry this on for?

  27. On August 5th, 2010 at 11:20 am Bargain Betty » Blog Archive » What I’ve been up to. Says:

    […] It looks like I’ve not been posting. But I’ve been adding nuggets of information every few days to my pantry challenge entry in this blog.  Take a look here: http://www.bargainbetty.co.nz/2010/07/16/how-to-cut-your-grocery-bill-1/ […]

  28. On August 6th, 2010 at 1:34 pm Sally Says:

    I like this experiment and am amazed how long you have managed to go for. Great concept!

    I do this sort of thing for the week or so before we go away or every now and then when I want to empty the freezer out.

    I have limited storage space so this restricts my ability to keep large stocks of supplies – both dry and frozen. I think the key thing is the planning – making sure that your meals are cost effective and well balanced, but then having the flexibility to include an item on special that is not on your list.

    One thing is that at the end of this experiment you will have a whopper of a bill as you restock all the basics and the freezer!

  29. On August 11th, 2010 at 3:32 pm BinInn Says:

    Hi, just discovered your website from a link on Helen’s Foodlovers. What great articles and feedback – love that you give advice on cutting your grocery bill during these times of an ever decreasing food budget – let alone the introduction on GST. GST will be here before we know it so thanks for a great website of helpful hints to slash that grocery bill!

  30. On August 13th, 2010 at 9:42 am Bargain Betty Says:

    Hi Moana. It was six weeks in total. I missed four shops, which meant I survived for six weeks on what I had (except that as discussed I bought fruit and milk). Also Virgil from Foodlovers brought over some of his free range eggs one time. He said it was “foraging” and therefore okay.

  31. On August 13th, 2010 at 9:43 am Bargain Betty Says:

    Thanks BinInn. As I said in my email to you, I’m a fan of Binn Inn. You have some really good deals there. Unfortunately I live too far from you to visit often. I don’t believe in using petrol in order to go somewhere for cheap shopping. Although I do stop at places I know are good if I’m in the neighbourhood anyway. I would recommend anyone who lives near a BinInn check it out.

  32. On August 14th, 2010 at 9:29 am Bargain Betty Says:

    One of the amusing results of this project has been the free food that has been coming my way as a result of it. I’ve been given eggs and grapefruit. This morning I was called by someone I know whose mother has gone into a rest home suddenly, and offered food from the mother’s cupboards. 🙂 Shows how deeply the need to store food sits in our psyche. People have been worrying about the lack of food on our shelves.

    In retrospect, one of the best outcomes of the experiment was the psychological stuff. It’s made me think long and hard about why I hoard food. It is a wonderful feeling to open the freezer and pantry now and not have them full to the brim with food. (The fridge is a different story because it’s full to the brim with olives. There is less general food in the fridge, but it’s hard to tell that because the fridge is so full.

    I’m now going to be very careful not to constantly stock up on everything I might use one day, and try to plan meals for the week. I’m also going to go onto a fortnightly shopping regime. That will save me considerable time.

  33. On August 24th, 2010 at 1:10 pm Bargain Betty » Blog Archive » Baked Bean cassoulet Says:

    […] for my pantry project. You can read more about my experiences of not shopping for four weeks here: http://www.bargainbetty.co.nz/2010/07/16/how-to-cut-your-grocery-bill-1/ […]

  34. On November 26th, 2010 at 10:59 am Bargain Betty » Blog Archive » The “Feeding Michael” project Says:

    […] Needless to say, he consumes as many calories a day as a small army of teenagers.  It dawned on me this week that I was going to need to re-stock the pantry big-time, after my pantry project. […]

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