Food challenge Day One: Tuck in!

Getting stuck into my food shopping experiment today, I decided to kick things off by doing exactly what we used to do in my school chemistry lab of yore…creating a control arm!

Don’t worry – it won’t be something toxic-looking, producing pink flames, but simply carrying out my normal food shop, so we have something to compare my weird and wonderful shopping experiences with over the coming month.

But instead of being boring and heading to a supermarket, I thought I’d go to our local farm shop. For ages my neighbour has been raving about how cheap it is, so today I decided to give it a visit.

The only problem was, I wasn’t sure whether it took debit card and my neighbour was out. So I jumped in the car and headed to our local supermarket’s ATM. Things didn’t augur well – a road rage incident in the store car park meant 20 cars were stuck in gridlock traffic. For a while I thought I’d be forced to shop there anyway! But the car park attendants managed to stop the fight and peace ensued.

After a 15 minute drive I got to the farm shop, where life was more sedate than the supermarket! Farm shops don’t always mean good quality produce, but in this case the fruit and vegetable display was glorious. Outside mountains of fresh potatoes, leeks, melons and apples greeted my eyes. I lingered over some gorgeous looking raspberries, but dragged myself away as they weren’t on my shopping list. I’d carefully planned out our meals for the next week to avoid spending on things we don’t need:

(we eat cereal and toast for breakfast):


Lunch – pasta & pesto

Dinner – chilli con carne


Lunch – leftover chilli con carne

Dinner – sausages and mash


Lunch – leftover sausages, salad and couscous

Dinner – quick dinner of pizza and salad (busy day)


Lunch – DJ’s spaghetti Bolognese

Dinner – roast chicken, roast tatties and veg


Lunch – boiled egg curry and couscous

Dinner – leftover chicken, salad and chips


Lunch – homemade veg soup and bread

Dinner – veg noodle stir fry


Lunch – beans on toast

Diner – roasted vegetables and couscous

Inside the farm shop it wasn’t quite as glamorous. The aisles were narrow and the shopping trolleys rickety. I got stuck behind another couple who seemed transfixed by the mountains of cheap chocolate biscuits. The place was full of people struggling to navigate around the produce and each other. The shopping experience was one of function over comfort. And it was chaos at the till – a long queue and nobody opening extra tills as you might get in Tescos etc. The shop took debit card but one of the cashiers was having so much trouble putting one through that I paid by cash.

But most items were fabulously cheap. I helped myself to two jars of Lloyd Grossman pesto for £1. One pesto jar currently sells for £1.12 in Asda. And 1kg of fusilli pasta for £1 (£1.24-£1.30 in Asda). A bag of onions which normally costs me about 70-99p in the supermarket was 50p. I was naughty and treated myself to a packet of popcorn for 39p, which normally retailed for 89p.

Altogether I spent £11.35:

1kg fusilli pasta – £1

1kg spaghetti – £1

Popcorn – 39p

Spinach – 99p

Semi-skimmed milk – £1.25

Red kidney beans – 39p

2 bottles pesto – £1

7lb potatoes – £1

Pack onions – 50p

Cos lettuce – 69p

Pack apples – £1

0.315kg Parsnips – 69p

0.255kg mushrooms – 31p

Broccoli – 39p

Leeks – 75p

Total: £11.35

However, by the time I’d finished there were still outstanding items on my list. There was no meat for sale there or household items like kitchen towel and bleach, although the latter obviously won’t form part of our food shop. And I couldn’t find any couscous or noodles. For my week’s meal plan I still need couscous (£1.24), noodles (£1.72), a free range chicken (£6), two packets of mince (£5.50), a pizza (£2.10) and sausages (£1.98). So the total week’s control arm food shop will be about £30.

Fortunately we have chips in the freezer and baked beans (and we make our own bread using the bread maker). But it looks like I will still have to visit the supermarket after all!


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2 Responses to Food challenge Day One: Tuck in!

  1. Kerry says:

    You said you needed meat… Why not go to your local butchers? The quality is fantastic (the sausages won\’t shrink!) and you\’ll be supporting your local shops and local farmers too. As for the pizza, pizza dough is really easy, your bread maker might make it too, and home made pizza is so much nicer than supermarket bought (more toppings too!) Noodles and couscous could come from a chinese supermarket or one of the middle eastern markets such as in Manchester or Nottingham, if there is one close to you, its much cheaper and you can buy in bulk if you eat them a lot. There are always alternatives to Tescos if you think laterally!Good Luck, I\’m following you with interest!

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