Planning out your meal solutions for the next 5-7 days, balancing the food interests of the family, with nutrient requirements, alongside a sensible budget is never that easy.
We always have store cupboard of dry (including canned), frozen items and lon- life chilled in the larder at hand; canned tuna, frozen peas, organic flours, honey, marmite, peanut butter, coconut milk, polpa pomodoro tomatoes, cannellini beans, a variety of dried herbs, whole and ground spices, mustard, butter, hard and soft cheeses, double cream, vinegars oils, soy sauce, almond /soya milk, citrus fruits, exotic aromatics, lemon grass, chillies, kaffir lime leafs, root ginger and fresh coriander, as well as our Brilliant Base armoury, ready to draw upon.
My approach to weekly grocery shopping, depends largely on where I am in my working diary, ie physically where and when I shop. Supermarkets, wholesalers, farmers markets, our local village and town stores all feature, then I also need to factor in how many of the
Typically, in a supermarket, I head straight to the ‘bargain bucket’ reduced to clear/still fresh section OR look out for those distinctive large yellow labels, designed to attract your attention, as well as looking at the deals and multibuys on offer.
These yellow labels tell their own story. For instance, this summer, there has been what is known as a ‘carcass imbalance’ when it comes to beef, pork and lamb – it means too many have been slaughtered and so the meat becomes cheaper in an effort to sell it quickly. Right now for instance, pork shoulder boned and rolled @ £2.70 a kilo is cheaper than buying an aubergine.
Don’t be afraid to ask the staff questions too. Strike up ‘friendships’ in the supermarkets you shop in and see if you can find out secrets. What time they price goods down that are near to sell-by date is a good one. I often do this with beef, buying multiple cuts where the price has been knocked down – and then take it home and mince it before freezing. It can literally save you tens of pounds and those homemade burgers are so much better than store bought ones.
I always looking to elevate my shopping basket, I do search out those organic/free-range/freedom and welfare /wild grown/grass-fed items where and when available. I’d aim for 70-80% of my basket being under one of these categories, in truth at present its nearer 50% given current supply chain issues we are dealing with in the UK, however this will rectify as this season progresses, our home grown crops are harvested and we negotiate the post Brexit import / export logistics and commercial mechanics. I’m not being political here, but it’s always best to buy British, when you can. For one thing, you know it will be seasonal and for another, you can be sure you’re doing more for the environment by reducing food miles as much as possible.
The other thing to consider is what are your alternatives. For instance, if I am doing our Pork Milanese from a few months ago and I can’t find pork fillet (or I can’t find it at a price I like), I’ll look to swap it out. veal or chicken for instance work equally well.
Likewise, if I can’t find butternut squash on sale, I’d look for pumpkins or maybe even celeriac as an appropriate replacement, so in short, I always try to remain as flexible as possible.
When it comes to seafood, I’m always quite particular. I only buy short-life fish and shellfish if we’re consuming that day, as the rate of degradation in these items is far more rapid, therefore the growth of bacteria, can be greater and a far wider spread of variant bacteria’s present, than say a silverside joint of grass-fed beef that may well be fit for purpose 3-5 days later.
One thing to also look out for is this grey area of ‘use by date’ versus BBE (best before end) date is largely confusing for most consumers. Use by is a legal requirement to sell on by a retailer and tell a customer to consume by a specific date (albeit the control decision once sold, is in the hands of the customer) and BBE which is ‘advisory’. Spoiling and pathogenic bacteria risk is very low here, however the organoleptic and nutritional qualities maybe affected if you leave it too long.
Once I’ve shopped and decanted back at home I’ve made a metal note of roughly what I will cook on which days, prepare to cook our Brilliant Bases on an appropriate day and stack the fridge according to food safe guidance with raw meats, fish ALWAYS on the bottom shelf so reducing the risk of ‘dripping into ‘ ready-to-eat foods and noting the advisory mandatory date line for usage, so in affect controlling our own stock rotation and usage.
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