Wow – from a culinary point of view it’s been an interesting month for me! Five weeks ago MSN set me the challenge of attempting to beat rising food prices by trying out different approaches to my weekly food shop. I began with a week of foraging for wild foods, followed by a week of World War Two recipes. Next my challenge was to spend seven days shopping solely at Aldi, while my final task last week was to eat only vegetarian food and see if avoiding meat could help me save on my shopping bill.
Each task had its strengths and weaknesses. The wild food week was fun – a highlight was foraging with Kris Miners and learning how to use the wild plants growing locally to me. But until that point I felt pretty cagey about picking plants I was uncertain about for fear of poisoning myself, so my diet got a trifle dull restricted to dandelion and plantain leaves, with the odd nettle.
World War Two week was the most challenging week. While it was fascinating talking to the Imperial War and Churchill Museums about how people ate – and coped – during wartime, the blandness of the food was a major turn-off. But I think we could learn a lot from WW2 about using up leftovers, not wasting food and growing our own on allotments.
Aldi week was a revelation. You all – quite rightly! – gave me a good ticking off about my supermarket snobbery and instinct to hide my Aldi bags from the neighbours when I got home– not to mention forgetting to take my own bags to the supermarket! But I was impressed by the prices and the quality of the food. Even fusspot DJ ate it.
Finally, going vegetarian wasn’t as difficult as I’d expected, although I did miss my weekly toad in the hole one night when it was cold and pouring with rain. I also got great moneysaving tips from the Vegetarian Society which anybody – meat eater or veggie – could make use of. And I tasted my first nut roast.
But which strategy saved me the most money? Here’s a rundown of my food shopping bill for each week
Control week/normal food shop – £27.47 (originally quoted as £30, I skipped the £1.24 noodles included in my original shopping list and made my own pizza for £1.40).
Wild food week – £22.83
WW2 week – £23.99
Aldi shop – £17.40
Vegetarian week – £26.82
So, the Aldi shopping experience came out on top and helped me save over 30 per cent on my control arm shopping bill. The wild food week came second at £22.83 thanks to two wood pigeon exchanged for some eggs from John the Poacher and foraging for free ingredients from the garden.
Hot on its heels was WW2 week at £23.99. But vegetarian week turned out to be more expensive than I expected. Looking at the receipts, though, I think it’s mainly down to the price of things like cashew nuts, aubergines and avocados. Although we weren’t buying meat, we were enticed by exotic vegetables. Plus DJ bought feta cheese and puff pastry to make a delicious tart, which added to the bill.
With less expensive veg and by buying lentils etc. in bulk the vegetarian diet would be cheaper. The wild food week was economical but the downside to this diet is that it’s highly seasonal, unless you were proactive enough to collect foraged foods and store them for use during the winter months.
What the experiment has taught me, though, is the importance of shopping around, which admittedly not everyone has the time to do, meal planning and not wasting anything, whether it’s leftovers in the fridge or nature’s bounty in your back garden.
How do you save on your shopping bill? What are your cunning shopping tips/strategies? Let me know by leaving a message.